Head and Neck Cancer Treatment
The most common type of malignant tumor in the head and neck area is squamous cell carcinoma (SCCA). Treatment for SCCA usually involves surgery and/or radiation therapy and can occasionally include chemotherapy as well. In addition to SCCA, there are many other types of cancer that can occur in the head and neck.
Head and neck cancer can change a patient’s ability to communicate or swallow. At Sylvester, our full-service cancer rehabilitation department employs a number of skilled speech and swallowing therapists to help patients reach a satisfactory level in either speech or swallowing.
There are three general categories of treatment for head and neck cancer:
- Surgery – generally recommended if the location of the tumor makes it easy to operate.
- Radiation Therapy – uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells in a localized area, is used instead of surgery, or after surgery to destroy cancer cells. Sylvester physicians offer a number a number of innovative radiation therapy options including high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy, three-dimensional conformal radiation, and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).
- Chemotherapy – the use of a single drug or a combination of drugs (usually administered in the vein) to kill cancerous cells by stopping them from dividing and reproducing. Many new medications have increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy and decreased its side effects. Combinations of therapy are recommended to improve the change of a cure and the quality of life for patients who are diagnosed with amore advanced stage of the disease.
Treatment for oral cancer is based on several factors including a patient’s overall health and medical history, the extent of the disease, and other individual factors. Treatment may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or some combination of therapies.
Different surgical techniques are used to remove specific types of tumors. Some specific surgeries include primary tumor resection (removal of the entire tumor and surrounding tissue), maxillectomy (removal of the tumor, including part or all of the roof of the mouth, if bone is involved), Mohs’ micrographic surgery (removal of the tumor in “slices” to minimize the amount of normal tissue removed), laryngectomy (removal of a large tumor of the tongue or oropharynx, which may involve removing the larynx), and neck dissection (removal of lymph nodes in the neck if cancer has spread to these nodes).
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors to halt the spread of cancer. Therapy may be administered externally with a machine or internally with radioactive materials.
Chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce. Chemotherapy may be used in combination with surgery and radiation therapy.
Treatment for laryngeal cancer is based on several factors including a patient’s overall health and medical history and other individual factors. The choice of treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer. Generally, treatment for patients with cancer of the larynx will include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, or some combination of the three.
Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells and to shrink tumors. Radiation can be delivered externally by a machine or internally through radioactive implants.
In certain instances, a doctor may perform surgery to remove the cancerous cells or tumor. Laryngectomy is surgery to remove part, or all, or part, of the larynx, depending on the extent of the cancer. If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, the surgeon may perform a lymph node dissection (removal of the lymph nodes in the neck).
During surgery for cancer of the larynx, the surgeon may need to make a stoma (a new airway through an opening in the front of the neck). The procedure is called atracheostomy. For many patients, the stoma is temporary. Often it is needed only until the patient recovers from surgery.
Chemotherapy is the use of one anticancer drug or a combination of drugs, to treat cancerous cells. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow or reproduce.