While many cancers of the head and neck are curable, treatment depends on where the cancer is, the severity of the disease, and the patient's age and overall health. The primary method of treatment is surgery (removing the cancer cells). Radiation (using high-dose X-rays to kill cancer cells) and chemotherapy (using anti-cancer medication), and now targeted therapies are also used.
The newest technique offered is Transoral Robotic-assisted Surgery (TORS) for tumors of the upper aerodigestive tract (tumors of the back of the tongue and throat). UW Medical Center is the only center in the region to offer this specialized surgery using the da Vinci Robot that allows patients to return home in only a day or two without experiencing the long-term effects of more invasive techniques, which were once the only surgical option available.
Recently, the use of targeted therapy has shown progress and we have started using agents that specifically target growth receptors on tumor cells, such as cetuximab and erlotinib.
At SCCA, patients have access to national leaders in head and neck cancer surgical treatments.
Head and neck radiotherapy is a highly complex and specialized field. Tremendous technical advances have occurred in the last decade.
Proton therapy is a precise form of radiation treatment that targets protons at tumors to kill cancer cells, while significantly limiting radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue.
Systemic therapy in head and neck cancer has expanded. Chemotherapy with radiation therapy is the standard of care for locally advanced disease.