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:
- Removing and destroying tumors and cancer cells
- Recovering function and appearance
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:
- Transoral (through the mouth) laser microsurgery. Minimally invasive surgery is used to remove tumors that are located in your mouth, throat or voice box, while preserving swallowing and speech structures. Your surgeon inserts a thin, lighted tube, called an endoscope, through your mouth and into your throat. We destroy the tumor with a special laser attached to the endoscope.
- Transnasal surgery. In some cases, we use minimally invasive techniques to access tumors inside the head without damaging surrounding structures. We developed a technique to remove tumors around the pituitary gland (located behind the face at the base of the skull) with very little effect on the appearance of the face. Within Indiana, this procedure is unique to IU Health.
- Robotic surgery. This technology allows us to use tiny instruments to remove tumors while minimizing damage to surrounding tissue. The da Vinci robotic surgical system (Intuitive, Inc) is utilized by the team with this approach.
- Chemotherapy. Powerful chemotherapy drugs can disrupt and destroy cancerous cells while preserving the appearance and function of your head or neck. Often chemotherapy combined with radiation therapy helps us treat difficult-to-reach areas. We use the latest chemotherapy methods to balance effectiveness with your quality of life during therapy.
- Radiation. Radiation therapy may be used to control head and neck cancer. It is sometimes recommended before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence. Radiation also helps treat pain caused by cancer. When we treat head and neck cancer, tissue and organ preservation is a priority. Highly focused radiation can destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors with less damage to surrounding tissue.
- Plastic surgery. Reconstructive surgery can restore function in your mouth or throat. Our reconstructive surgeons have extensive experience rebuilding structures of the face, head and neck. We graft bones when needed and use tissue from nearby, or from other parts of the body, to recover natural shape and function.
- Speech and swallowing therapy. Following surgical treatment, dedicated speech and swallowing pathologists will work with you to help you regain any function that was damaged by removal of tissue in surgery. A nutritionist is also available to help you learn what foods are best for you during and after treatment.
Head & Neck Cancer Locations & Physicians
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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.
A Sampling of Head & Neck Cancer Support Services
Head and Neck Cancer Alliance
This advocacy and support organization has information and extensive support resources, plus an online forum to connect you with others who had or are dealing with head and neck cancer.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
This NCI website features education about cancers of the head and neck, how they are diagnosed and how they are treated.
This American Society of Clinical Oncology site offers a variety of resources, including information about clinical trials. It also provides information about the financial costs of cancer care.
Oral Cancer Foundation
The Oral Cancer Foundation educates the public and promotes screening for early diagnosis of head and neck cancers. This site includes a support forum that can help you and your family with the challenges of head or neck cancer.