Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms, Treatment & Surgery

We’re here to help. Contact Vanessa Boral, MSN, RN at 203-276-2273 (Press 2).

We offer head and neck cancer treatment for cancers of the oral cavity, nasopharynx, oropharynx, larynx, hypopharynx, and salivary glands.

What is Head and Neck Cancer?

Cancers that are known collectively as head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat). These squamous cell cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. Cancers of the head and neck are further categorized by the area of the head or neck in which they begin. These areas may include the oral cavity, pharynx (throat), larynx (voicebox), paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity and salivary glands.

Risk Factors for Head and Neck Cancer

  • Consuming preserved or salted foods
  • Poor oral hygiene/missing teeth
  • Occupational exposure (such as asbestos and synthetic fibers)
  • Radiation exposure
  • Epstein-Barr, also called mononucleosis or "mono," virus infection
  • Ancestry- Asian, particularly Chinese, ancestry is a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer

The Connection Between HPV and Head and Neck Cancer

Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV type 16, is a risk factor for some types of head and neck cancers, particularly oropharyngeal cancers that involve the tonsils or the base of the tongue. In the United States, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancers caused by HPV infection is increasing, while the incidence of oropharyngeal cancers related to other causes is falling.

Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

  • A mouth sore that bleeds easily and doesn't heal
  • A lump or thickening anywhere in the mouth or neck
  • Soreness or swelling in the mouth that doesn't go away
  • Prolonged hoarseness of the voice
  • Red or white patch on the tongue, gums or cheeks that doesn't go away
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Options

Your course of treatment depends on the type and stage of your head or neck cancer. Head and neck cancer treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these treatments.

Stamford Health is known for expertise in minimally invasive surgical techniques for the treatment of cancer. The potential benefits of minimally invasive procedures include less pain, less blood loss and reduced need for blood transfusions. It can also result in a shorter hospital stay, a quicker recovery and faster return to normal daily activities.

Radiation Therapy

Depending on the individual cancer case, those receiving radiation treatment may be suitable for intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a technology that makes it possible to vary the intensity of the beam as you're being treated, allowing for safer use of higher doses of radiation to the tumor and lower doses to surrounding healthy tissue.

Support Services for Those With Head and Neck Cancer

  • If you're undergoing radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, we will automatically refer you to our speech pathologist for a baseline consultation. Our speech pathologist will evaluate swallowing function and check in with you through the course of treatment to monitor for any changes in your health.
  • It's common for you to lose weight and even become nutritionally compromised as a result of head and neck cancer and its treatment. We're committed to referring you to a nutritionist to provide education and helpful tips.
Ranked #1 in New England for cancer care, joins forces with Stamford Health, globally recognized for leadership and innovation in person-centered care. Our partnership provides our patients with access to the latest and most effective, evidence-based best practices and standards in cancer treatment and research. 

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