Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

At Virginia Mason, in Seattle, individuals with head and neck cancer benefit from the combined expertise of head and neck and reconstructive surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and other specialized providers and staff to provide seamless care throughout your medical treatment.

Head and Neck Cancer Surgery

The Head and Neck and Reconstructive surgeons at Virginia Mason provide state-of-the-art organ preservation and reconstruction to minimize the functional and cosmetic impacts of treatment.

Endoscopic Laser Resection of Head and Neck Cancer

Many tumors, particularly those of the larynx (voice box) and pharynx (throat) that had traditionally required large operations, can now be removed through a scope without incisions on the neck. This can minimize the impact of surgery and reduce recovery time.

Extended Conserving Laryngeal Surgeries

Larger tumors of the voice box that traditionally required removal of the entire voice box may now be amenable to creative reconstructive techniques not available at all institutions. Even if surgery must be performed, surgeons can now use the latest techniques in extended partial laryngeal removal to preserve function of the voice box.

TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS)

For patients diagnosed with benign or malignant tumors of the mouth and throat, TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) provides a minimally invasive, virtually scarless treatment. This surgery uses miniaturized robotic tools inserted through the mouth to reach tumors of the voice box, tonsils, base of the tongue and other areas of the throat. Learn about treating oral cancer with TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS).

Chemotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer

Chemotherapy is the use of powerful anti-cancer drugs that kill cancer cells by interfering with their ability to reproduce. The decision to treat with chemotherapy depends upon many factors, including tumor size and whether or not cancer has spread to the neck lymph nodes. Chemotherapy is often used in combination with surgery or radiation.

Radiation for Head and Neck Cancer

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays aimed at the tumor site to kill cancer cells. In many cases this treatment is used after surgery to destroy any remaining cancerous cells in the head and neck. At Virginia Mason, we offer Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). With IMRT, a three-dimensional plan is constructed that precisely contours the radiation dose to treat the head and neck, and avoid normal structures such as the eyes and brain. This treatment is more rapid, and the dose distribution is more uniform, resulting in less skin and soft-tissue reactions than conventional radiation therapy.

Speech Pathology

Some forms of head and neck cancer surgery may result in alterations in a person's ability to talk or swallow. In these situations, working with the speech pathologist on exercises and strategies to improve the ability to communicate or swallow will be a part of your treatment plan. If you are going to have radiation after your surgery, swallowing exercises are sometimes recommended to help reduce the impact that radiation can have on the movement of structures involved with speech and swallowing. In instances where more extensive cancer surgery is required, the speech pathologist may work with you on alternatives to verbal communication or with various forms of alaryngeal (without a voice box) communication.

Nutrition for Head and Neck Cancer

Keeping your body as strong and healthy as possible during your treatment is very important to help your body fight the cancer, recover quicker and be as comfortable as possible in the process. Getting adequate nutrition is essential in this process. This guide to nutrition during head and neck cancer treatment will help you understand what to expect at different stages in your treatment. We have also included some tips to help you along the way.

For more information about treating head and neck cancer, contact us at (206) 341-0675.