Head and Neck Cancer Diagnosis and Treatments

If you or your doctor suspects that you have head and neck cancer, your doctor will first confirm the diagnosis. To do so, your doctor will perform imaging tests to evaluate the extensiveness of the cancer within the body; you will need to know if the cancer is confined to the site of the primary (first) tumor, which means it is localized, or if it has grown to distant sites in the body, which means it has metastasized. The doctor is also highly likely to perform a biopsy, or collect cells from the suspected tumor and send them to a pathologist for further evaluation. Once the diagnosis and stage of your head and neck cancer is confirmed, your doctor will recommend the best treatment course, which will be based on all the evidence available, your doctor’s professional experience and current research.

There are three primary therapeutic options for the treatment of head and neck cancer: surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. These treatments may be administered alone (e.g., surgery only), in combination with other therapies (e.g., chemotherapy plus radiation therapy) or in sequence (e.g., surgery followed by radiation therapy).

There’s so much hope. There are so many things doctors can do for you. There are so many different kinds of treatments and wonderful breakthroughs.Linda K. (maxillary sinus carcinoma survivor)

Navigating head and neck cancer treatments


This section includes articles about imaging and biopsies. These articles list and describe the types of tests you may undergo if you are being diagnosed for head and neck cancer.

Surgery and Rehabilitation

This type of treatment involves surgically cutting out as much of the tumor as possible while retaining the structure and function of surrounding anatomy. The various types of surgeries may involve removing part of a structure or removing an entire structure. This section also involves details of eating and breathing rehabilitation following surgical resection.

Radiation Therapy

In the most basic sense, ionizing radiation damages the DNA of cells as they try to divide and replicate. This article describes types of radiation therapy, when they are used in the treatment of head and neck cancer and side effects a patient may experience.

Chemotherapy, Biologics, and Other Medications

This type of treatment damages dividing cells. Chemotherapy is the use of medications to destroy cancer cells. This article describes types of chemotherapy, how it is administered and side effects a patient may experience.

Clinical Trials

A clinical trial is a research study that compares a new treatment regimen against a more standard treatment regimen in a very organized and scientific way. Clinical trials are often recommended for those whose cancer is advanced and not responding to standard treatments.