• Head and Neck Cancers

    If you have head and neck cancer, your treatment and care plan at the DeCesaris Cancer Institute at AAMC includes an expert team of surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists.

    Because these cancers are located in very sensitive, small canals of the mouth, nose and throat, healthy tissue in your head and neck may also be affected during treatment, causing functional and cosmetic changes. For this reason, your team includes pathologists and reconstructive plastic surgeons. We work together to balance the need to treat your cancer with the importance of maintaining the function of your head and neck and your appearance.

    About Head and Neck Cancers

    Head and neck cancers usually begin in the cells that line moist surfaces like the mouth, nose and throat. These cancer cells can travel to other parts of the body, like the lungs, and grow or metastasize there. When this occurs, the cancer cells in the new place look like the ones from the head or neck. Since a cancer is named for the place where it starts, if a head and neck cancer spreads to the lungs, it’s still called head and neck cancer rather than lung cancer.

    Tobacco, heavy alcohol use and human papillomavirus (HPV) can increase your risk of head and neck cancer.

    Head and Neck Cancer Types

    Our doctors diagnose and treat cancers of the head and neck including:

    Signs and Symptoms

    While many symptoms of head and neck cancer may be due to other health issues, it’s important to see a doctor or your dentist if any of these conditions last more than a few weeks. Head and neck cancers are often discovered because of these symptoms:

    • Changes in vision
    • Decreased sense of smell
    • Hoarseness and/or voice changes
    • Loose teeth
    • Lump or mass (neck, face, nose, palate, cheek)
    • Muscle weakness (one side of face)
    • Nosebleeds or pus draining from the nose
    • Numbness (tongue, cheek, face)
    • Pain (ears, teeth, jaw, above or below eyes, throat)
    • Persistent cough
    • Sore throat that won’t go away
    • Trouble breathing or chewing
    • Unintended weight loss

    Diagnosis

    Your care team may use these tests to diagnose head and neck cancer and create your treatment plan:

    • Biopsy
    • Blood tests
    • Imaging tests (x-rays, CT and PET scans, MRIs)
    • Physical exams
    • Scopes (many types such as laryngoscopy)

    Treatment

    As part of your individual assessment, imaging tests precisely locate your tumor and identify its size. Your cancer care team then plans the best way to eliminate the tumor, while maintaining the appearance and full function of your head and neck.

    Along with traditional surgical and non-surgical treatment options, your care team may also use these procedures as part of your treatment plan:

    • Microvascular plastic surgery (surgery on very small blood vessels) for facial reconstruction, if needed
    • Specialized radiation techniques to help spare healthy tissues

    Under our care, you have access to a nurse navigator who can explain treatment and reconstructive options and processes to you and your family. Our program also includes support groups, physical therapy, nutrition services, speech therapy and more.

    Make an Appointment

    If you suspect you may have a head or neck cancer, or you’ve been recently diagnosed, let us help. Call 443-481-5800 to schedule a consultation.

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