A National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Head and Neck Cancers

City of Hope is a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancers. Our multidisciplinary head and neck cancer program takes a comprehensive approach to provide the most effective therapies available against cancers in the following tissues and organs:
 
  • Oral cavity (lip, mouth and tongue)
  • Throat (pharynx and larynx)
    • Nasopharynx
    • Oropharynx
    • Hypoharynx
  • Thyroid and parathyroid glands
  • Skin of the head and neck
  • Salivary glands
  • Nasal cavity
  • Paranasal sinuses
 
Our integrated team of health professionals work closely with one another and collaborate extensively with other departments and institutions. Together, they combine the latest scientific breakthroughs with outstanding patient care, delivering the best treatments available for optimal outcomes. This includes using advanced technologies and specialized techniques such as:
 
  • minimally-invasive, robotically-assisted techniques for complex surgeries that can remove tumors with less discomfort, reduced risk of complications and shorter recovery times
  • reconstructive surgery that can minimize loss of function (such as ability to speak or swallow) or restore appearance following cancer treatment
  • highly precise radiation therapy that can target hard-to-resect tumors with minimal exposure to surrounding normal tissue
  • targeted drugs and drug combinations that can treat advanced cancer with greater effectiveness and fewer side effects, compared to traditional chemotherapy
 
Additionally, City of Hope patients have access to our extensive team of  supportive care experts — including speech pathologists, dieticians, supportive medicine physicians, rehabilitation specialists. Working closely with the patient’s primary care team, they can detect and address quality of life issues related to head and neck cancers and their treatments. This includes managing symptoms (such as pain, nausea and fatigue), restoring function (such as ability to speak, eat and breathe) and adjusting to a new diet and lifestyle after treatment.
 
Learn more about head and neck cancer types, symptoms, risk factors and diagnostic tests on National Cancer Institute’s website.
 
 
As one of a handful of institutes to attain the elite designation of Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute , City of Hope is acknowledged as a leader in research and treatment of head and neck cancers. With our decades of experience, specialized therapy protocols and extensive program of clinical trials, newly diagnosed or relapsed patients can find a treatment regimen that is tailored to their needs and gives them the best chance for survival. U.S. News & World Report also named City of Hope as one of the top cancer hospitals in the country.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.
 
 

Head and Neck Cancer Team

Our Treatment Approach to Head and Neck Cancers

City of Hope has one of the most renowned head and neck cancer programs in the United States, with a multidisciplinary team of medical experts across different fields including surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology and supportive care medicine. Together, they work collaboratively to plan and implement a treatment regimen that is individually tailored to the patient to improve survival chances, enhance outcomes, minimize side effects and boost quality of life.

Surgery

Surgery is often the primary treatment for head and neck cancers; it can be curative for early stage patients and can also greatly improve survival outcomes for later stage patients. Surgery may also be performed to alleviate symptoms associated with head and neck cancers, such as speaking, swallowing or breathing difficulties.
 
City of Hope’s surgeons specialize in minimally invasive and robotically-assisted surgical procedures to treat head and neck cancers. By using smaller incisions compared to an open procedure, patients experience less pain, recover faster, have shorter hospital stays and are less likely to have post-surgical complications.
 
Depending on tumor size and location, some patients may be able to undergo transoral robotic surgery. By attaching miniature surgical tools to a narrow tube, which is then inserted orally, procedures can be performed without the need for external incisions. This can further reduce recovery time.
 
The expertise of City of Hope’s surgeons also means that they can treat and remove tumors that are considered inoperable elsewhere. This is done through advanced procedures that can navigate around sensitive areas (such as major blood vessels) and working with radiation and medical oncologists, who may be able to shrink the tumor to down to an operable size and shape with radiation and drug therapies.
 
Additionally, City of Hope’s team of plastic and reconstructive surgeons can restore function and repair appearance through a variety of specialized procedures, including tissue grafts, bone reconstruction and microvascular surgery.
 

Radiation Therapy

Radiation can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies to treat head and neck cancers by killing malignant cells or preventing the tumor growing larger. It is applied externally using one or more radioactive beams focused on the tumor.
 
In addition to standard radiation regimens, City of Hope also offers Helical TomoTherapy, an advance technology combining radiation delivery with advanced imaging. This allows the radiation beams to be “sculpted” to the tumor’s size and shape, resulting in more focused radiation on the cancer site while minimizing exposure to adjacent tissues and organs.
 
City of Hope physicians are also studying if some head and neck cancer patients can be successfully treated with a less intense dosage of radiation due to the area’s sensitivity to this treatment. This can reduce the likelihood and intensity of side effects — such as taste changes, dry mouth, swollen gums and trouble swallowing — while maintaining optimal outcomes.
 

Drug Therapy

City of Hope uses a wide range of chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs to treat localized, regional and metastatic head and neck cancers. In addition to standard drug regimens, patients have access to newly developed drugs (or drug combinations) through our clinical trials program.
 
Cancer fighting drugs can also enhance the effectiveness of surgery or radiation therapy, by shrinking the tumor before the procedure and making it easier to remove (neoadjuvant therapy), or given after the procedure to minimize the chance of recurrence (adjuvant therapy.)
 
Chemotherapy may also be given alongside radiation therapy to enhance the cancer-fighting effectiveness of both (chemoradiation.)
 
As part of the treatment team, a medical oncologist will evaluate the patient’s cancer, health and other factors, so that the chemotherapy, if appropriate, can be tailored to the patient throughout the continuum of care.
 

Rehabilitation

Depending on the size and location of the tumor, the disease and its treatments can impact the patient’s ability to speak, swallow, eat, drink and breathe. City of Hope has a comprehensive team of rehabilitation experts can help head and neck cancer patients return to normal living as soon as possible. Our broad range of services include physical and occupational therapy, speech pathology and dietary counseling, as well as supportive care medicine programs such as pain management, support groups, one-on-one counseling and spiritual care.

Become a Patient

If you have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.

Head and Neck Cancer Research and Clinical Trials

There is extensive collaboration between City of Hope clinicians and researchers to develop and evaluate new cancer therapies designed to improve survival and quality of life outcomes. City of Hope patients have access to a wide variety of clinical trials ranging from new chemotherapy and targeted therapies, novel surgical techniques, new radiation approaches and strategies to minimize side effects and chances of cancer recurrence.
 
  • City of Hope is participating in a Phase II trial to test the drug combination of 5-Fluoro-2’-deoxycytidine (FdCyd) plus tetrahydruridine in head and neck cancer patients who have not responded to conventional therapy. Previous studies show that FdCyd can inhibit cancer cell replication and tetrahydruridine can boost FdCyd intake by cells. The researchers hope that this combination can increase survival by halting the cancer’s growth and spread.
  • Head and neck cancer patients may receive radiation after surgery to kill remaining malignant cells at the tumor site, and City of Hope is part of a multi-site trial to see if this can be further improved by adding the drug cetuximab (Erbitux®). Cetuximab works by inhibiting a growth factor cancer cells use to proliferate, and researchers believe adding this to surgery and radiation may improve survival and quality of life for patients with locally advanced head and neck cancers.
  • Previous studies suggest that people with HPV-positive head and neck cancers responds better to treatment than those with HPV-negative head and neck cancers, so City of Hope physicians are investigating whether they can be treated with a reduced dose of radiation and chemotherapy while maintaining treatment efficacy. If found to be effective, a lower dosage can significantly improve quality of life by reducing likelihood and severity of side effects, such as dry mouth, changes in smell and taste and trouble swallowing, speaking and breathing.
 
If you are interested in participating in a study, please discuss with your primary doctor about open trials and their eligibility criteria.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.
 

Living with Head and Neck Cancer

While our primary goal is to cure or control the disease, another top priority is relieving suffering and discomfort for head and neck patients undergoing cancer treatments.
 
In addition to curative treatments, City of Hope head and neck patients and their caregivers have access to the broad range of services offered by our Department of Supportive Care Medicine.  The department’s staff of professionals, including registered dieticians, rehabilitation therapists, speech pathologists, supportive medicine physicians and clinical social workers, can help patients and loved ones with a variety of care and wellness issues including:
 
  • Managing cancer or treatment effects such as pain, nausea and fatigue
  • Restoring functions impacted by the disease and/or treatment, such as speaking, chewing, swallowing and breathing
  • Palliative care to reduce discomfort and stress, physical and mental, throughout diagnosis and treatment
  • Adjusting to new dietary and lifestyle habits following treatment
  • Coping and maintaining emotional/social/spiritual well-being
  • Navigating through the health care system
  • Staying healthy and active during/after treatment
  • Healing arts
  • Building caregivers’ skills
 
The Department of Supportive Care Medicine is based in City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, which integrates all support services in a central location. The Biller Resource Center provides a warm and welcoming space where patients, families and caregivers can access the resources, education and support they need to strengthen and empower themselves, before, during and after treatment.
 
For more information or to contact the Biller Resource Center staff, please call 626-256-4673, ext. 32273 (3CARE).
 
 
This site includes tips, tools and online resources to help cancer patients and their families with issues that arise during cancer treatment.
 
Additional Resources
 
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.
 

Support this program

We deliver exquisite care at the leading edge of cancer treatment. It takes the help of a lot of caring people to make hope a reality for our patients. City of Hope was founded by individuals' philanthropic efforts over 100 years ago. Their efforts - and those of our supporters today - have built the foundation for the care we provide and the research we conduct. It enables City of Hope to strive for new breakthroughs and better therapies - helping more people enjoy longer, better lives.

For more information on supporting this specific program, please contact:

Julie Hara

Senior Development Officer
Phone: 626-218-0869
Email: juhara@coh.org

 
 

Head and Neck Cancers

Head and Neck Cancers

City of Hope is a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancers. Our multidisciplinary head and neck cancer program takes a comprehensive approach to provide the most effective therapies available against cancers in the following tissues and organs:
 
  • Oral cavity (lip, mouth and tongue)
  • Throat (pharynx and larynx)
    • Nasopharynx
    • Oropharynx
    • Hypoharynx
  • Thyroid and parathyroid glands
  • Skin of the head and neck
  • Salivary glands
  • Nasal cavity
  • Paranasal sinuses
 
Our integrated team of health professionals work closely with one another and collaborate extensively with other departments and institutions. Together, they combine the latest scientific breakthroughs with outstanding patient care, delivering the best treatments available for optimal outcomes. This includes using advanced technologies and specialized techniques such as:
 
  • minimally-invasive, robotically-assisted techniques for complex surgeries that can remove tumors with less discomfort, reduced risk of complications and shorter recovery times
  • reconstructive surgery that can minimize loss of function (such as ability to speak or swallow) or restore appearance following cancer treatment
  • highly precise radiation therapy that can target hard-to-resect tumors with minimal exposure to surrounding normal tissue
  • targeted drugs and drug combinations that can treat advanced cancer with greater effectiveness and fewer side effects, compared to traditional chemotherapy
 
Additionally, City of Hope patients have access to our extensive team of  supportive care experts — including speech pathologists, dieticians, supportive medicine physicians, rehabilitation specialists. Working closely with the patient’s primary care team, they can detect and address quality of life issues related to head and neck cancers and their treatments. This includes managing symptoms (such as pain, nausea and fatigue), restoring function (such as ability to speak, eat and breathe) and adjusting to a new diet and lifestyle after treatment.
 
Learn more about head and neck cancer types, symptoms, risk factors and diagnostic tests on National Cancer Institute’s website.
 
 
As one of a handful of institutes to attain the elite designation of Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute , City of Hope is acknowledged as a leader in research and treatment of head and neck cancers. With our decades of experience, specialized therapy protocols and extensive program of clinical trials, newly diagnosed or relapsed patients can find a treatment regimen that is tailored to their needs and gives them the best chance for survival. U.S. News & World Report also named City of Hope as one of the top cancer hospitals in the country.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.
 
 

Head and Neck Cancer Team

Head and Neck Cancer Team

Head and Neck Cancers Treatments

Our Treatment Approach to Head and Neck Cancers

City of Hope has one of the most renowned head and neck cancer programs in the United States, with a multidisciplinary team of medical experts across different fields including surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology and supportive care medicine. Together, they work collaboratively to plan and implement a treatment regimen that is individually tailored to the patient to improve survival chances, enhance outcomes, minimize side effects and boost quality of life.

Surgery

Surgery is often the primary treatment for head and neck cancers; it can be curative for early stage patients and can also greatly improve survival outcomes for later stage patients. Surgery may also be performed to alleviate symptoms associated with head and neck cancers, such as speaking, swallowing or breathing difficulties.
 
City of Hope’s surgeons specialize in minimally invasive and robotically-assisted surgical procedures to treat head and neck cancers. By using smaller incisions compared to an open procedure, patients experience less pain, recover faster, have shorter hospital stays and are less likely to have post-surgical complications.
 
Depending on tumor size and location, some patients may be able to undergo transoral robotic surgery. By attaching miniature surgical tools to a narrow tube, which is then inserted orally, procedures can be performed without the need for external incisions. This can further reduce recovery time.
 
The expertise of City of Hope’s surgeons also means that they can treat and remove tumors that are considered inoperable elsewhere. This is done through advanced procedures that can navigate around sensitive areas (such as major blood vessels) and working with radiation and medical oncologists, who may be able to shrink the tumor to down to an operable size and shape with radiation and drug therapies.
 
Additionally, City of Hope’s team of plastic and reconstructive surgeons can restore function and repair appearance through a variety of specialized procedures, including tissue grafts, bone reconstruction and microvascular surgery.
 

Radiation Therapy

Radiation can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies to treat head and neck cancers by killing malignant cells or preventing the tumor growing larger. It is applied externally using one or more radioactive beams focused on the tumor.
 
In addition to standard radiation regimens, City of Hope also offers Helical TomoTherapy, an advance technology combining radiation delivery with advanced imaging. This allows the radiation beams to be “sculpted” to the tumor’s size and shape, resulting in more focused radiation on the cancer site while minimizing exposure to adjacent tissues and organs.
 
City of Hope physicians are also studying if some head and neck cancer patients can be successfully treated with a less intense dosage of radiation due to the area’s sensitivity to this treatment. This can reduce the likelihood and intensity of side effects — such as taste changes, dry mouth, swollen gums and trouble swallowing — while maintaining optimal outcomes.
 

Drug Therapy

City of Hope uses a wide range of chemotherapy and targeted therapy drugs to treat localized, regional and metastatic head and neck cancers. In addition to standard drug regimens, patients have access to newly developed drugs (or drug combinations) through our clinical trials program.
 
Cancer fighting drugs can also enhance the effectiveness of surgery or radiation therapy, by shrinking the tumor before the procedure and making it easier to remove (neoadjuvant therapy), or given after the procedure to minimize the chance of recurrence (adjuvant therapy.)
 
Chemotherapy may also be given alongside radiation therapy to enhance the cancer-fighting effectiveness of both (chemoradiation.)
 
As part of the treatment team, a medical oncologist will evaluate the patient’s cancer, health and other factors, so that the chemotherapy, if appropriate, can be tailored to the patient throughout the continuum of care.
 

Rehabilitation

Depending on the size and location of the tumor, the disease and its treatments can impact the patient’s ability to speak, swallow, eat, drink and breathe. City of Hope has a comprehensive team of rehabilitation experts can help head and neck cancer patients return to normal living as soon as possible. Our broad range of services include physical and occupational therapy, speech pathology and dietary counseling, as well as supportive care medicine programs such as pain management, support groups, one-on-one counseling and spiritual care.

Become a Patient

If you have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.

Head and Neck Cancer Research

Head and Neck Cancer Research and Clinical Trials

There is extensive collaboration between City of Hope clinicians and researchers to develop and evaluate new cancer therapies designed to improve survival and quality of life outcomes. City of Hope patients have access to a wide variety of clinical trials ranging from new chemotherapy and targeted therapies, novel surgical techniques, new radiation approaches and strategies to minimize side effects and chances of cancer recurrence.
 
  • City of Hope is participating in a Phase II trial to test the drug combination of 5-Fluoro-2’-deoxycytidine (FdCyd) plus tetrahydruridine in head and neck cancer patients who have not responded to conventional therapy. Previous studies show that FdCyd can inhibit cancer cell replication and tetrahydruridine can boost FdCyd intake by cells. The researchers hope that this combination can increase survival by halting the cancer’s growth and spread.
  • Head and neck cancer patients may receive radiation after surgery to kill remaining malignant cells at the tumor site, and City of Hope is part of a multi-site trial to see if this can be further improved by adding the drug cetuximab (Erbitux®). Cetuximab works by inhibiting a growth factor cancer cells use to proliferate, and researchers believe adding this to surgery and radiation may improve survival and quality of life for patients with locally advanced head and neck cancers.
  • Previous studies suggest that people with HPV-positive head and neck cancers responds better to treatment than those with HPV-negative head and neck cancers, so City of Hope physicians are investigating whether they can be treated with a reduced dose of radiation and chemotherapy while maintaining treatment efficacy. If found to be effective, a lower dosage can significantly improve quality of life by reducing likelihood and severity of side effects, such as dry mouth, changes in smell and taste and trouble swallowing, speaking and breathing.
 
If you are interested in participating in a study, please discuss with your primary doctor about open trials and their eligibility criteria.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.
 

Living with Head and Neck Cancer

Living with Head and Neck Cancer

While our primary goal is to cure or control the disease, another top priority is relieving suffering and discomfort for head and neck patients undergoing cancer treatments.
 
In addition to curative treatments, City of Hope head and neck patients and their caregivers have access to the broad range of services offered by our Department of Supportive Care Medicine.  The department’s staff of professionals, including registered dieticians, rehabilitation therapists, speech pathologists, supportive medicine physicians and clinical social workers, can help patients and loved ones with a variety of care and wellness issues including:
 
  • Managing cancer or treatment effects such as pain, nausea and fatigue
  • Restoring functions impacted by the disease and/or treatment, such as speaking, chewing, swallowing and breathing
  • Palliative care to reduce discomfort and stress, physical and mental, throughout diagnosis and treatment
  • Adjusting to new dietary and lifestyle habits following treatment
  • Coping and maintaining emotional/social/spiritual well-being
  • Navigating through the health care system
  • Staying healthy and active during/after treatment
  • Healing arts
  • Building caregivers’ skills
 
The Department of Supportive Care Medicine is based in City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, which integrates all support services in a central location. The Biller Resource Center provides a warm and welcoming space where patients, families and caregivers can access the resources, education and support they need to strengthen and empower themselves, before, during and after treatment.
 
For more information or to contact the Biller Resource Center staff, please call 626-256-4673, ext. 32273 (3CARE).
 
 
This site includes tips, tools and online resources to help cancer patients and their families with issues that arise during cancer treatment.
 
Additional Resources
 
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a head and neck cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.
 

Support This Program

Support this program

We deliver exquisite care at the leading edge of cancer treatment. It takes the help of a lot of caring people to make hope a reality for our patients. City of Hope was founded by individuals' philanthropic efforts over 100 years ago. Their efforts - and those of our supporters today - have built the foundation for the care we provide and the research we conduct. It enables City of Hope to strive for new breakthroughs and better therapies - helping more people enjoy longer, better lives.

For more information on supporting this specific program, please contact:

Julie Hara

Senior Development Officer
Phone: 626-218-0869
Email: juhara@coh.org

 
 
Quick Links
Ask the Experts - Head and Neck Cancers
With Cancer, Expertise Matters

 
Cancer patients need to have confidence in their treatment plans by exploring all possible options. Often that means they should get a second opinion. For these four patients, getting a second opinion from experts at City of Hope was life-saving.
Clinical Trials
Our aggressive pursuit to discover better ways to help patients now – not years from now – places us among the leaders worldwide in the administration of clinical trials.
 
Ranked as one of  "America’s Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.S. News & World Report, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of hematopoietic cell transplantation and genetics. Designated as a comprehensive cancer center, the highest honor bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope's research and treatment protocols advance care throughout the nation.