Head and Neck Cancer

Head and Neck Cancer Treatments

Head and neck cancer is often curable when detected early. Treatment varies depending on the type and location of the tumor and whether it has spread.

At UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, patients have every treatment option available to them, delivered by the most experienced head and neck cancer specialists in Dallas.

Surgery

Surgery is often the first treatment for head and neck cancers. The goal is to remove as much of the cancerous tumor as possible.

UT Southwestern’s team of specialists can also perform reconstructive surgery if bones or other structures are affected by the tumor. In many cases, we can perform reconstructive surgery at the same time as the cancer surgery.

Minimally invasive surgical options include:

  • Transoral robotic surgery (TORS): Performed with the aid of a robotic arm that is operated by a surgeon, TORS provides access to small and often difficult-to-reach areas of the mouth and throat, without any external incisions.
  • Endoscopic laser surgery: Surgeons can remove tumors using a laser attached to an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera) inserted through the mouth or nose.
  • Radiosurgery: Our surgeons are skilled at using the Gamma Knife for precise, noninvasive brain and skull-base surgery and the CyberKnife for image-guided robotic radiosurgery, both part of our comprehensive stereotactic radiosurgery program.

A new technology developed by UT Southwestern head and neck cancer surgeon Baran Sumer, M.D., and his team of researchers might soon be available to help with the surgical removal of cancer. The pH Nanosensor is an injection that highlights cancerous areas on a screen so that surgeons know exactly where to operate. UT Southwestern plans to test this new technology in phase I clinical trials in 2017.

Radiation for Head and Neck Cancer

Targeted radiation therapy is often given to head and neck cancer patients as part of a multidisciplinary treatment regimen. Targeted therapy helps preserve structures vital to eating, swallowing, speaking, and hearing.

Stereotactic radiation therapy uses multiple angles to safely and precisely deliver a more potent dose than can be given with standard radiation therapy. UT Southwestern helped perfect this type of radiation, and only experts with advanced training such as those at UT Southwestern perform the procedure on head and neck cancer patients. 

Additionally, radiation oncologists at UT Southwestern were the first in the world to conduct a formal study treating cancer of the larynx (voice box) with the CyberKnife, an advanced robotic, radiosurgical tool that can offer some patients improved voice recovery after treatment. 

Medical Treatment: Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy

For some head and neck cancer patients, chemotherapy – the use of cancer-killing drugs – is the best course of treatment before or after surgery and/or radiation therapy. 

In addition, we offer the latest immunotherapy drugs to help the immune system fight cancer – a particular benefit for patients with thyroid cancer.