FACTS ABOUT HEAD AND NECK CANCER

The American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States, approximately three to five percent of all cancers that are diagnosed will be in the head and neck region. Head and neck cancers mainly affect the areas of the mouth, sinuses, nose, or throat. Men are twice as likely to develop head and neck cancer, as well as a higher risk for those over the age of 50.

At Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, we utilize state-of-the-art technology combined with a staff with a passion for helping patients heal, to deliver professional cancer treatment for for a wide variety of cancers, including head and neck cancers. If you or someone you know is battling with cancer, contact us and schedule an appointment to start on the path to a healthier, happier life.

Below you can find more information about head and neck cancers, as well as various treatment options.


TREATING HEAD AND NECK CANCER

Deciding on the best treatment for head and neck cancers depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, its size and stage, its location and your overall health. For many head and neck cancers, combining two or three types of treatment may be most effective, which means that treatment would require the expertise of a surgeon, a radiation oncologist and a medical oncologist. If possible, organ preservation is a priority during treatment, attempting to use treatments such as radiation therapy, that limits the amount of damage done to healthy cells, tissues, and organs compared to other procedures.

In order to determine the best course for treatment, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a full evaluation of your health and state of cancer. Once a full diagnosis and analysis is completed, your doctor will be able create a personalized treatment plan designed to eliminate the cancer as much as possible so it can be either cured or kept under control to prevent spreading.

Surgery

Surgery is a very effective treatment option for completely removing a tumor from the head or neck. Before moving forward with surgery, your doctor will perform a biopsy, evaluating the nose, mouth and throat with a flexible endoscopic camera to determine if the tumor has spread to other parts of your head, neck, or your body.

If surgery is determined to be a suitable option as a part of your treatment plan, your surgeon can remove the tumor with a rim of normal tissue. Depending upon the tumor location and how advanced it is, the surgeon may also surgically remove lymph nodes in the neck. The lymph nodes, part of the normal immune system, are a common path for spread in some tumors. Ask your doctors the likelihood of the lymph nodes being involved and whether you need surgery or radiation for the lymph nodes in the neck.

In some cases, surgery is combined with radiation. If radiation is the main treatment, some surgery may be helpful afterwards but is determined on a case-by-case basis. If surgery is the main treatment, radiation may be helpful after surgery if more advanced disease is found. Either way, this combination of treatments will makes sure that the cancerous cells are killed off, so you can focus on healing and getting back to your life.

Medical Therapy

While surgery and radiation focus directly on treating the tumor, medication is often recommended to improve cure rates since it uses a combination of various cancer killing drugs to treat the entire body. A medical oncologist will evaluate you and determine what medications will the the most effective in treating your cancer, and if it will be combined with any other treatment methods for a comprehensive solution. Two of the main categories of systemic therapy (treatment that is injected into a person's blood system) are:

  • Chemotherapy - Using one to three different types of drugs, chemotherapy targets and kills cells that divide rapidly, which is a core attribute to cancer cells. If this treatment is combined with radiation therapy, it is usually delivered simultaneously. In some cases, chemotherapy may be helpful before radiation treatment to manage any cancer that has begun spreading into other parts of the body.. This type of treatment is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
  • Targeted Therapy - This involves focusing anti-cancer treatment on certain molecules, such as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). This can be used with radiation therapy as well.

If you have any questions about chemotherapy and its possible side effects, just ask your doctor and they’ll be able to discuss the treatment process in more detail.

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PRE TREATMENT DENTAL CARE

Dental care is an essential part of preparing for head and neck cancer treatment. Since the treatments can have side effects that cause things like dry mouth and a weakened immune system, you will be more susceptible to things like tooth decay, cavities, and infection. Before treatment begins you will need to be examined by a dentist or oral surgeon for a pre-radiation dental evaluation.

The dentist will need to remove any decayed teeth before treatment begins, and create fluoride carriers for your teeth to use on a daily basis while you undergo treatment. Make sure to ask your doctor whether or not you need to see your dentist before starting treatment.

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RADIATION CANCER THERAPY

Radiation therapy involves delivering focused radiation to treat cancer cells by changing their DNA, destroying their ability to multiply and eventually killing them off. While the targeted radiation is focused on the tumor alone, a small amount of surrounding healthy tissue is also affected by radiation and may have some damage. However, healthy normal cells are better able to heal from radiation injury, compared to cancer cells, because they have maintained the ability to repair radiation-induced damage.

For head and neck cancer, radiation often allows organ-sparing treatment that can give patients better swallowing and/or voice function with equal cure rates as compared to surgically removing a tumor. In some cases, radiation will be combined with surgery, chemotherapy or both for a more comprehensive treatment plan.

Cyberknife

The CyberKnife System is a state-of-the-art treatment method that offers non-invasive radiation therapy treatments for head and neck cancers. With the CyberKnife System, we can treat head and neck tumors with pinpoint accuracy in just one to five treatments. Unlike conventional radiation therapy, the CyberKnife System leverages advanced robotics to precisely target tumors with high doses of radiation, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue and minimizing side effects. Dr. Eugene Huang and the patients of Southeast Radiation Oncology Center have access to the Alaska CyberKnife Center at Providence Cancer Center in Anchorage. Alaska CyberKnife Center at Providence Cancer Center in Anchorage. Ask your physician if the CyberKnife System is right for you.

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Contact SROC For More Information

If you have any questions about head and neck cancers, or would like to know more about the treatment options, you can come to the experts in cancer treatment and healing in the Soldotna, AK area. At Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, Dr. Huang and his team of radiation cancer therapy specialists will help you create the perfect treatment plan so you can work towards a healthier, happier, you. Just contact us and schedule your appointment for an initial exam and consultation today.

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HeAD and Neck Cancer Resources

Head and Neck Cancer Alliance

1-866-792-4622
www.headandneck.org

Oral Cancer Foundation

949-646-8000
www.oralcancerfoundation.org

Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer

1-800-377-0328
www.spohnc.org

Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association

 1-877-588-7904 
www.thyca.org

Also see Helpful Links

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BROCHURE

Download a helpful brochure from www.rtanswers.org

*Content provided by the American Society for Radiation Oncology, www.rtanswers.org, and the American Cancer Society.

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