Carcinomas of the head and neck most commonly arise from the base of tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), voice box (larynx) and upper throat (supraglottic larynx) and mouth (oral cavity). Patients will typically note an enlarged neck lymph node, a progressive worsening of their voice and swallowing, or a sore on the tongue at the time of diagnosis. Head and neck tumors may also arise from the parotid salivary glands, nasal cavity or nasopharynx.
Head and neck cancers historically were caused by smoking however in the past decade there have been increases in these tumors due to a virus. Currently there is an epidemic of HPV (human papilloma virus) oropharynx cancers.
Although head and neck cancers are usually fatal if left untreated, the vast majority can be cured with some combination of surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Lawrence Cancer Center radiation oncologists work closely with ear nose throat surgeons and medical oncologists. Following a biopsy of the tumor and consultation with these physicians, you may require additional pathologic or radiology studies such as CT or PET scan. Our team of physicians will then determine the optimal course of treatment for each new patient at the dedicated Head and Neck Tumor Conference at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Treatment may be limited to surgery or radiation therapy alone, but may require some combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
Head and neck cancer treatment can be one of the most difficulty courses of therapy to complete, but fortunately, our treatment success is very high, with approximately 80-90 % of patients experiencing a cure. Our radiation oncologists are highly trained in the management of head and neck cancer, having specialized head and neck training at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston TX. They are capable of offering patients very sophisticated treatments with radiation that maximize cure while protecting patients from the long term side effects of radiation.