Head and Neck Cancer
While uncommon, cancers of the head and neck can affect some of our most important functions - eating, speaking and breathing.
Most head and neck cancers begin in the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat. They can also develop in the sinuses and nose, on the lips, in the salivary glands and in the lymph nodes in the upper part of the neck.
Dr. Adan Rios' Story
Dr. Adan A. Rios, a medical oncologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann, suddenly saw his life’s work from a new perspective when he himself was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Watch this video to see his journey from becoming the doctor, to the patient.
What are the signs and symptoms of oral, head and neck cancers?
The signs and symptoms of oral, head and neck cancer often go unnoticed. However, there are a few visible signs associated with these cancers that require immediate attention, including:
- A lump in your neck, cheek or mouth
- A sore in your mouth that doesn't heal or that increases in size
- Persistent pain in your mouth
- White or red patches inside your mouth
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving your tongue
- Soreness in your throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat
- Changes in your voice
Who should get tested for oral, head and neck cancer?
Every adult should get tested for oral, head and neck cancer. Tobacco and alcohol users traditionally have been considered the populations at greatest risk for these cancers. However, throat cancer cases are on the rise in younger adults who do not smoke, and recent research indicates this development is due partly to the increase of the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus. HPV-related oral, head and neck cancers are more difficult to detect because these cancers usually occur on the back of the tongue or on the tonsils, providing even more reason to get screened regularly.
Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer in Houston
Memorial Hermann Cancer Centers provide advanced treatment for patients with throat, head and neck cancer.
Affiliated physicians, specially trained staff and nurses offer leading cancer care personalized to meet the specific needs of each patient with:
The Memorial Hermann and UT Health oral, head and neck cancer program includes screening symptoms, diagnostics, therapeutic intervention, treatment, supportive care team orientation and survivorship.
Coordinated care is provided by a multidisciplinary team of specialists in these areas:
- Neck cancer surgery
- Neck plastic surgery
- Radiation oncology
- Medical oncology
- Advanced practice cancer nurses
- Oncology nurse navigators
- Oncology dietitians
- Speech pathology
- Rehabilitation therapy
Surgery is performed at Memorial Hermann - Texas Medical Center. Follow-up radiation and medical oncology therapies are provided close to home in one of six Memorial Hermann locations: Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, Texas Medical Center and The Woodlands Medical Center.
Diagnosis and Staging of Head and Neck Cancer in Houston
After head and neck cancer has been diagnosed, tests are run to find out if cancer cells have spread within the area or to other parts of the body. Some of the tests used to diagnose lung cancer are also used to stage the disease, including MRI, CT scan and PET scan.
Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation
Medical problems in the mouth are common in patients who receive chemotherapy or undergo radiation therapy to the head and neck.
Because the oral cavity is at high risk of side effects, patients receiving chemotherapy to the head and neck should have their care planned by a team of doctors and specialists.
Houston Clinical Trials and Research for Head and Neck Cancer
Patients who qualify for innovative treatments and technologies early in their development and testing phases, and soon after being approved by the Food & Drug Administration, have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials of treatments that would not otherwise be available to them.
Head and Neck Cancer Webinar
View a Head and Neck Cancer Webinar with Kunal Jain, MD, FACS, Assistant Professor McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.