Head and Neck Cancers and Tumors

Head and neck cancers or tumors most often form in the mucus linings of the mouth, throat, voice box and other parts of the head and neck. Less frequently, head and neck cancer can form in salivary glands, muscles or nerves.

Some of the most frequent causes of head and neck cancers or tumors include smoking, chewing tobacco and HPV. Wood dust exposure, radiation and Epstein-Barr virus infection are risk factors.

The overwhelming majority of head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinoma — cancer cells that form in skin cells in the mucous membranes of the head and neck. Head and neck cancers include basal cell carcinoma, malignant thyroid cancer and throat cancer.

Head and neck cancers tend to be aggressive, meaning they can form, grow and spread quickly. They also can be genetically complex, which is one reason why Norton Cancer Institute has developed a specialized program to treat them. Generally, laryngeal cancer and oral cancer tend to be associated with tobacco and/or alcohol use. Pharyngeal cancer, or cancer in the throat, tends to result from HPV.

Head and neck cancers or tumors can develop in the following parts of the body:

  • Oral cancer develops in the lips, the front portion of the tongue, gums, cheeks and lips, under the tongue, in the hard palate, and the gums just behind the wisdom teeth.
  • Throat cancer develops in the windpipe or pharynx running from the back of the nose (nasopharyngeal cancer), back of the mouth (oropharyngeal cancer) to the top of the esophagus (hypopharyngeal cancer).
  • Laryngeal cancer (cancer of the larynx) forms in the voice box at the bottom of the pharynx.
  • Cancer can develop in sinuses surrounding the nose and the nasal cavity.
  • Salivary gland cancer forms in the bottom of the mouth.

Norton Cancer Institute Head & Neck Tumor Program brings together diverse specialists who are board-certified and fellowship-trained leaders in their field. They’re at the forefront of developing innovative approaches to get you back to living your life.

The Head & Neck Tumor Program gives you the ability to see multiple specialists such as oncologists, an oncologic dermatologist, a neurosurgeon, an otolaryngologist, a surgeon, a radiation oncologist and plastic surgeon.

The multidisciplinary program makes it easier to schedule multiple cancer care appointments for the same day. You’ll also benefit from the collaborative benefits of multiple specialists working together on your case. It’s similar to getting a second, third or fourth opinion. 

The Head & Neck Tumor Program also finds ways to get you treated faster. A real-time diagnosis can save weeks of waiting. You can have test results reviewed immediately to meet insurance requirements faster. 

Among the many specialists who work with head and neck cancer or tumor patients are speech pathologists and nutritionists. This specialized care can help restore day-to-day physical activity, such as swallowing or speaking.

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Head and neck cancer treatment can include surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, external beam radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. 

With physicians working closely in the same office, a case review and surgery, if needed, can be complete in two to three days. With traditional care models and specialists in different locations, the lead time could be two weeks or more.

If appropriate for your oral or throat cancer, your physician may choose transoral robotic-assisted surgery, an option that offers more precise guidance of surgical tools within the confines of the mouth and throat. This greater precision can contribute to a faster recovery and fewer complications.

In addition to the care team treating head and neck cancer directly, the program offers access to a behavioral oncologist, oral prosthodontist, speech pathologist and nutritionist.

Your comprehensive care team meets regularly to review your case and plan the next steps.

State-of-the-art treatments include immunotherapy and biologic therapy that can provide a customized cancer care that’s designed specifically to combat the genetic makeup of your cancer.

If you meet the criteria of a clinical trial, you may be able to participate in innovative National Cancer Institute and industry-sponsored research studies. These clinical trials help improve current cancer treatment in addition to finding new and promising solutions. Because of their frequent participation in clinical trials, Norton Cancer Institute specialists often have deep experience in the newest treatments for head and neck cancers or tumors when they are approved for broader use.

Why Choose Norton Cancer Institute

More patients in Louisville and Southern Indiana choose Norton Cancer Institute than any other provider in the area. We provide compassionate care for the whole person, not just the cancer.

Our Norton Cancer Institute oncologists are also researchers and principal investigators, offering patients sophisticated experience in the latest treatments and access to more than 200 clinical trials.

  • Access to more than 100 specialists, including board-certified and fellowship-trained oncologists
  • Multidisciplinary setting, meaning you get the benefit of opinions from multiple specialists across Norton Healthcare and often can schedule appointments for the same day in the same location
  • Immunotherapies such as CAR-T cell therapy, genetic therapies tailored to combat the unique genetic makeup of your cancer and the latest in surgical treatments, chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • State-of-the-art Norton Cancer Institute Genomics Lab offering highly specialized testing that makes it possible to tailor advanced treatments based on a tumor’s specific genetic composition
  • Robotic-assisted bronchoscopy for minimally invasive lung biopsies that can reach more parts of the lung without major surgery
  • Medicare, Medicaid and most major commercial insurance accepted
  • At Norton Specialty Pharmacy, patients receive regular consultations on their medications and treatment plan, making sure they get their prescriptions quickly and accurately. Our specialty pharmacists collaborate closely with your oncology team.
  • Use your free Norton MyChart account to communicate with your provider, manage appointments, refill prescriptions, get on the wait list for an earlier appointment and more anytime from a mobile device or computer

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