Head and neck cancers

Head and neck cancers overview

You are at the center of everything we do at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. Here, we surround you with a team of specialists in the Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Care Clinic who work together closely to provide expertly targeted, complete care and compassionate support throughout your treatment and beyond.

Head and neck cancers can be emotionally challenging and affect your appearance as well as functions like speech and swallowing. Our goal is to cure your disease and at the same time limit any side effects. With supportive services, from physical therapy to spiritual care, your quality of life is as important to us as it is to you.

We guide you every step of the way, combining our deep clinical expertise in head and neck cancers with a commitment to meet your unique needs.

Following the merger of long-time partners, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the organization was renamed to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. We are an independent, nonprofit organization that also serves as UW Medicine's cancer program. 

Side effects A problem that occurs when treatment affects healthy tissues or organs. Some side effects of cancer treatment are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, decreased blood cell counts, hair loss and mouth sores.

Why choose Fred Hutch?

  • Where you're treated first matters most
    Studies have shown that the first treatment you receive for cancer is by far the most important. Patients who begin treatment at Fred Hutch often have better outcomes than those who started treatment elsewhere. 
  • True team care
    Our multidisciplinary team includes head and neck surgeons, reconstructive surgeons, dental surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, neuroradiologists and pathologists from UW Medicine who come together to evaluate you and plan your care. Many other experts, like dietitians, speech and swallowing pathologists and physical and occupational therapists, will be part of your care team if you need them.
  • Comprehensive head and neck cancer treatment 
    Our doctors are experts in the full spectrum of state-of-the-art treatments head and neck cancers may require. Based on your specific type of cancer and the unique characteristics of your tumor, your team may recommend surgery (including minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery), proton therapy or other radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy, all available here. 
  • Head and neck cancer clinical trials
    To give you access to the most innovative therapies, we unite the leading researchers and cancer specialists of Fred Hutch and UW Medicine so you can take part in head and neck cancer clinical studies not available everywhere. 
  • A national leader in cancer care
    Fred Hutch is the leading cancer treatment center in the region and among the top nationally, according to U.S. News & World Report. 
  • NCI comprehensive cancer center
    We are a comprehensive cancer center, a designation from the National Cancer Institute that reflects our scientific leadership and the depth and breadth of our research to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease. Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies. Pathologist A physician who has special training in identifying diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope. Radiation oncologist A physician who has special training in using radiation to treat cancer. Radiation therapy The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Targeted therapy A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. Some targeted therapies block the action of certain enzymes, proteins or other molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Other types of targeted therapies help the immune system kill cancer cells, or they deliver toxic substances directly to cancer cells and kill them. Targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatment. Most targeted therapies are either small molecule drugs or monoclonal antibodies.

Facts

Many head and neck cancers are curable, especially if they are diagnosed and treated early. Fred Hutch offers comprehensive treatment from a team of experts who specialize in head and neck cancers.

Treatment

Our doctors are experts in the full spectrum of state-of-the-art treatments head and neck cancers may require. Based on your specific type of cancer and the unique characteristics of your tumor, your team may recommend surgery (including minimally invasive robot-assisted surgery), proton therapy or other radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy or immunotherapy, all available here. 

Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Immunotherapy A type of therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. A therapy that uses substances to stimulate or suppress the immune system to help the body fight cancer, infection and other diseases. Some immunotherapies only target certain cells of the immune system. Others affect the immune system in a general way. Types of immunotherapy include cytokines, vaccines, bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and some monoclonal antibodies. Radiation therapy The use of high-energy radiation from X-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, gamma rays, neutrons, protons and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy), or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells (internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy). Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance, such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody, that travels in the blood to tissues throughout the body. Targeted therapy A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. A type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific types of cancer cells while causing less harm to normal cells. Some targeted therapies block the action of certain enzymes, proteins or other molecules involved in the growth and spread of cancer cells. Other types of targeted therapies help the immune system kill cancer cells, or they deliver toxic substances directly to cancer cells and kill them. Targeted therapy may have fewer side effects than other types of cancer treatment. Most targeted therapies are either small molecule drugs or monoclonal antibodies.

Clinical trials

To give you access to the most innovative therapies, we unite the leading researchers and cancer specialists of Fred Hutch and UW Medicine so you can take part in head and neck cancer clinical studies not available everywhere. 

Clinical trial A type of research study that tests how well new medical approaches work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of a disease.

Providers

At Fred Hutch, you receive care from a team of providers with extensive experience in your disease. Your team includes physicians, a patient care coordinator, a registered nurse, an advanced practice provider and others, based on your needs. You also have access to experts like nutritionists, social workers, acupuncturists, psychiatrists and more who specialize in supporting people with cancer or blood disorders.