Cancers of the head and neck are tumors that begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, membranes inside the head and neck and include cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, salivary glands, and nose/nasal passages. This type of head and neck cancer is called squamous cell cancers. If cancer is limited to the squamous layer of cells, it is called carcinoma in situ. If cancer has grown beyond this cell layer and moved into the deeper tissue, then it is called invasive squamous cell carcinoma. Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center is available to provide cancer screening, treatment, and support.
More uncommon are cancers that begin in the salivary glands, of which there are many types, most commonly adenocarcinoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma, or mucoepidermoid carcinoma. The board-certified radiology oncologists at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center are experienced in treating cancers of the head and neck through the use of the most sophisticated and effective cancer treatments. Specifically, head and neck cancers are broken down into the areas in which they originate.
Other types of cancer, such as brain, esophageal, or thyroid cancers can occur in the head and neck areas, but are treated very differently. Head and neck cancer affects only about three percent of all cancers in the U.S. and 74 percent of those diagnosed are men. The five-year survival rate varies depending on many factors, but the average is 50 percent. Incidents of this type of cancer have been declining steadily.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a type head or neck cancer, your board-certified radiation oncologists will work with your medical team to discuss the array of advanced non-surgical radiation therapy treatment options available to you and the success rates with each type. It is common for head and neck cancer to travel, or metastasize, to other parts of the body. Treatments may consist of one or a combination of the following:
Treatment options for head and neck cancer are usually based on the tumor’s location and stage, and your age and overall health. Your cancer experts at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center offer several head and neck cancer treatments based on your individual situation.
There are two avoidable substances that can significantly increase the risk of developing a head and neck cancer:
Other factors that can raise a person’s risk of developing head and neck cancer include:
There are five main types of head and neck cancer, each named according to the part of the body where they develop. For more information about a specific type, click on one of the names below.
People with head and neck cancer often experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with head and neck cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.
If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your radiation oncologist. Your radiation oncologist will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.
Many cancers of the head and neck can be cured, especially if they are found early. Although eliminating the cancer is the primary goal of treatment, preserving the function of the nearby nerves, organs, and tissues is also very important. When planning treatment, radiation oncologists consider how treatment might affect a person’s quality of life, such as how a person feels, looks, talks, eats, and breathes.
Overall, the main treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Surgery or radiation therapy by themselves or a combination of these treatments may be part of a person’s treatment plan. More details can be found in each specific cancer type’s section.
Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, and the patient’s preferences and overall health. Your care plan may also include treatment for symptoms and side effects, an important part of cancer care. Take time to learn about all of your treatment options and be sure to ask questions about things that are unclear. Also, talk about the goals of each treatment with your radiation oncologist and what you can expect while receiving the treatment. Learn more about making treatment decisions. Our specialties also include:
Certain factors can make one person more likely to get head and neck cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. However, just because you have one or more risk factors does not mean that you will definitely get head and neck cancer. In fact, you can have many risk factors and still not develop the disease. On the other hand, you can have no risk factors and still get head and neck cancer.
Many people with head and neck cancer experience symptoms such as:
These symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other problems. It is important to see a radiation oncologist about any symptoms like these so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Many people with cancer get a second opinion from another radiation oncologist. There are many reasons to get a second opinion. Here are some of those reasons:
There are many ways to get a second opinion:
Ask a primary care radiation oncologist. Your radiation oncologist may be able to recommend a specialist. This may be a surgeon, medical oncologist, or radiation oncologist. Sometimes these radiation oncologists work together at cancer centers or programs.
Call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service. The number is 8004CANCER (8004226237). They provide information about treatment facilities, including cancer centers and other programs supported by the National Cancer Institute.
Seek other options. Check with a local medical society, hospital, medical school, or cancer advocacy group to get names of radiation oncologists who can give you a second opinion. Or ask other people who have had your type of cancer to refer you to someone.
Treatment depends on the type of cancer you have, where it is, and its stage. Common treatments for head and neck cancer include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.
If all of these types and stages of head and neck cancer are confusing to you, give the experts at Mat-Su Valley Cancer Center a call at 907-707-1333. We are here to explain the variety of treatment options available to you and make sure all of your questions are answered. For your convenience, we also have an online contact form that you may use to ask your questions or make your first appointment. Your first phone consultation is free, so don’t hesitate to give us a call today. You owe it to yourself to explore all treatment options available to you.