Once cancer has been detected, biopsied, and categorized by stage, your team of specialists in oncology, radiation oncology, surgery and pathology will work together to assess your best course of treatment for your specific type of head and neck cancer. This will include formulating a coordinated plan of personalized treatment consistent with the highest standards of care. Your treatment will be tailored to the type and stage of head and neck cancer you have, and may include a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Head and Neck Cancer Surgery
Surgery is a treatment for many types of cancers of the head and neck. Some surgeries may change the appearance of the face, as tissue from the face may need to be removed, or may change the patient's ability to chew, swallow, or talk. When lymph nodes are cancerous, a procedure known as a lymph node dissection may need to be performed. Other types of surgery will vary depending on the location of your cancer.
In some cases, rehabilitation from head and neck surgery involves learning how to chew, swallow or speak as before the surgery. WellStar occupational therapists and speech therapists are highly trained to rehabilitate head and neck surgery patients, and WellStar surgeons are highly expert in limiting their procedures to the exact area where a tumor needs to be removed, thus minimizing the damage to nearby tissues.
Chemotherapy is the use of drugs given by mouth or injection to destroy cancer cells. It can be used to assist in the cure of cancer patients or to prolong life or the quality of life. Chemotherapy is typically used for head and neck cancer patients to control its spread to lymph nodes, many of which are close to the sites of head and neck cancer.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. This kind of therapy is often used after surgery. The use of Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy, of which WellStar radiologists are expert, is extremely important in treating head and neck cancers. In IMRT, the radiation is focused only on the tumor, thus sparing nearby tissue. Because of the location of many head and neck tumors, sparing nearby tissue is critical so that patients can return to as normal a life as possible after surgery. Your WellStar team is highly experienced and trained to manage your radiation treatment successfully so that your chances of resuming a normal life are enhanced.