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Head & Neck Cancer

As with all cancers, the earlier head and neck cancers are identified, the better your outlook for recovery and return to a normal lifestyle. Cancers of the head and neck include those on the:

  • Skin of the head and neck (squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas and melanoma)
  • Inside of the nose and sinuses
  • Mouth and throat
  • Salivary glands
  • Thyroid gland
  • Base of the skull

Common symptoms for cancers of the head and neck include:

  • Skin bumps or sores that do not heal
  • Mouth or throat ulcers that persist longer than two weeks
  • A sore throat that does not go away
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Double vision
  • Change or hoarseness in the voice
  • Blocked sinuses
  • An unexplained lump in the cheek or neck

Many tumors originating in the head and neck share some common risk factors, including:

  • Tobacco use (plays a role in about 85 percent of head and neck cancers)
  • Alcohol use
  • Consumption of preserved or salted foods during childhood
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection (a sexually transmitted disease)
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Some occupational exposures to wood, metal, formaldehyde and other substances
  • Ultraviolet light exposure (may cause cancer in the skin of the head and neck)

Cancers of the head and neck occur twice as often in men as they do in women, but overall they are relatively uncommon.

If you have been diagnosed with head or neck cancer, we want you to know that you are not alone. We provide care for the whole person and consider you an important part of your care team. We recognize the challenges you may face with this disease and provide the specialized treatment and support you need.

Indiana University Health physicians work as a multidisciplinary team to treat head and neck cancers effectively and to help you return to your normal activities. You have the attention of a wide range of specialists and other professionals, including head and neck surgeons, reconstructive surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, head and neck pathologists, dentists, maxillofacial prosthodontists (experts in prosthetics to replace damaged parts of the face), therapists for speech and swallowing and neuroradiologists.

As the largest group of head and neck surgeons in the state, we have expertise with even rare cancers. We constantly refine existing techniques and develop new ones that enable us to remove tumors with less damage to surrounding tissues.

Our specialists are leaders in their fields and active in medical professional organizations. We research the science behind head and neck cancers and new treatments. Patients are referred to us from all over the state and surrounding region for the skilled care we provide.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Head & Neck Cancer Treatment Information

Many head and neck cancers develop in delicate locations that require great skill and experience for a successful outcome. Our advanced treatments have two critical goals:

These two goals are built into every treatment plan at IU Health. During the surgical phase of treatment, your head and neck surgeon and your reconstructive surgeon may work together during the same operation. One surgeon removes tumors while the other preserves and rebuilds delicate tissues. We use a variety of surgical techniques to remove different types of cancer. Other treatments help destroy cancer and restore the function and appearance of your face, head or neck.

Our treatments include:

Head & Neck Cancer Locations & Physicians

Use the search options below to find treatments available in your area. 

Find a Specialist

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Head & Neck Cancer Support Services

Visit the websites below to learn more about your condition and find community resources and support groups.