Head and Neck Cancer Treatments

There are many types of benign head and neck conditions and types of head and neck cancer. The Head and Neck Cancer Program offers a range of treatments. You and your doctor will discuss the best course of treatment for your condition, what you can expect for results, and what you may experience as side effects.

Benign conditions

Your physician or associate provider will discuss therapy for any benign condition you may have. This may involve observation, surgery, non-surgical treatment such as antibiotics, or reassurance.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs given intravenously to kill cancer cells that may be in your blood stream. Chemotherapy is sometimes used after surgery to reduce the chance of cancer returning in organs other than the primary site. Our medical oncologists will meet with you to discuss your treatment options and potential side effects, and will follow you and your progress throughout treatment. Whenever possible, we coordinate treatment through outreach centers closest to your home so you can minimize your travel during therapy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses radiation to kill cancer cells. It can be effective in destroying the DNA of the cancer cells and preventing the return of cancer. Many individuals with head and neck cancers will receive a recommendation to undergo radiation therapy either before or after surgery. Our radiation oncologists are experienced in advanced radiation treatments for cancers of the head and neck region and will plan your treatment schedule and follow your progress. Radiation is typically given once a day (5 days a week) for 4-6 weeks.

Surgery

Many individuals with head and neck cancer will undergo surgery. Your doctor will discuss options with you based on your diagnosis, and will work with you to help you make the best decision for yourself. Our surgeons specialize in both conventional surgeries and transoral robotic surgery.

Speech pathology

A speech pathologist is a specialist who can help you find ways to minimize the effects of head and neck cancer and its treatment. Because the cancer and its treatment often affect the ability to talk and eat, the speech pathologist evaluates any speech and swallowing difficulties, and provides therapy as needed.

Physical therapy

Some patients may experience limited mobility after treatment. In these instances postoperative exercises can help you recover mobility and a return to normal activities. Physical therapy might also be recommended to treat persistent pain or postoperative swelling of the surgical site. Your care team will work with you to find rehabilitation services close to home, either with Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) departments or our partners. Learn more about D-H Physical Therapy services.