Our Treatment Approach to Head and Neck Cancers
City of Hope has one of the most renowned head and neck cancer programs in the United States, with a multidisciplinary team of medical experts across different fields including surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology and supportive care medicine. Together, they work collaboratively to plan and implement a treatment regimen that is individually tailored to the patient to improve survival chances, enhance outcomes, minimize side effects and boost quality of life.
is often the primary treatment for head and neck cancers; it can be curative for early stage patients and can also greatly improve survival outcomes for later stage patients. Surgery may also be performed to alleviate symptoms associated with head and neck cancers, such as speaking, swallowing or breathing difficulties.
City of Hope’s surgeons specialize in
minimally invasive and robotically-assisted surgical procedures
to treat head and neck cancers. By using smaller incisions compared to an open procedure, patients experience less pain, recover faster, have shorter hospital stays and are less likely to have post-surgical complications.
Depending on tumor size and location, some patients may be able to undergo transoral robotic surgery. By attaching miniature surgical tools to a narrow tube, which is then inserted orally, procedures can be performed without the need for external incisions. This can further reduce recovery time.
The expertise of City of Hope’s surgeons also means that they can treat and remove tumors that are considered inoperable elsewhere. This is done through advanced procedures that can navigate around sensitive areas (such as major blood vessels) and working with radiation and medical oncologists, who may be able to shrink the tumor to down to an operable size and shape with radiation and drug therapies.
Additionally, City of Hope’s team of
plastic and reconstructive surgeons
can restore function and repair appearance through a variety of specialized procedures, including tissue grafts, bone reconstruction and microvascular surgery.
can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies to treat head and neck cancers by killing malignant cells or preventing the tumor growing larger. It is applied externally using one or more radioactive beams focused on the tumor.
In addition to standard radiation regimens, City of Hope also offers
an advance technology combining radiation delivery with advanced imaging. This allows the radiation beams to be “sculpted” to the tumor’s size and shape, resulting in more focused radiation on the cancer site while minimizing exposure to adjacent tissues and organs.
City of Hope physicians are also studying if some head and neck cancer patients can be successfully treated with a less intense dosage of radiation due to the area’s sensitivity to this treatment. This can reduce the likelihood and intensity of side effects — such as taste changes, dry mouth, swollen gums and trouble swallowing — while maintaining optimal outcomes.
City of Hope uses a wide range of chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs to treat localized, regional and metastatic head and neck cancers. In addition to standard drug regimens, patients have access to newly developed drugs (or drug combinations) through our
clinical trials program.
Cancer fighting drugs can also enhance the effectiveness of surgery or radiation therapy, by shrinking the tumor before the procedure and making it easier to remove (neoadjuvant therapy), or given after the procedure to minimize the chance of recurrence (adjuvant therapy.)
Chemotherapy may also be given alongside radiation therapy to enhance the cancer-fighting effectiveness of both (chemoradiation.)
As part of the treatment team, a
will evaluate the patient’s cancer, health and other factors, so that the chemotherapy, if appropriate, can be tailored to the patient throughout the continuum of care.
Depending on the size and location of the tumor, the disease and its treatments can impact the patient’s ability to speak, swallow, eat, drink and breathe. City of Hope has a comprehensive team of
can help head and neck cancer patients return to normal living as soon as possible. Our broad range of services include physical and occupational therapy, speech pathology and dietary counseling, as well as
supportive care medicine programs
such as pain management, support groups, one-on-one counseling and spiritual care.
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