Tumors of the Head and Neck
Head and neck tumors are those that grow in the nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, larynx, salivary glands, lymph nodes in the neck, thyroid gland, or parathyroid glands. They can be cancerous or non-cancerous (benign).
Signs to get help for head and neck tumors
Because head and neck cancers can spread rapidly to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body, including the lungs, getting a quick and accurate diagnosis is important. See your primary care physician if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- A lump or sore that does not heal
- Bleeding from the nose
- Changes in your voice or hoarseness
- Chronic sinus infections that do not respond to antibiotic treatment.
- Numbness or paralysis of the muscles of the face.
- Pain in the face, chin, neck, or throat that does not go away.
- Breasts that are blocked and do not clear
- Sore throat that does not go away
- Swelling or other problem with the eye.
- Unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth.
- White or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth
Many of these are symptoms of multiple conditions, so it is important to be evaluated by a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
Head and Neck Tumor Care at Rush
Head and neck tumors can be difficult to treat because they grow close to the brain, spine, vital nerves, and major blood vessels. Removing them can affect a person’s ability to eat, speak, see, hear, smell, or taste.
Your treatment depends on the following
- Where is the tumor located?
- The stage of cancer (if your tumor is cancerous)
- Your age and general health
You will have a multidisciplinary team of head and neck cancer specialists dedicated to your care. We focus on effectively treating your tumor while, to the extent possible, preserving your appearance and quality of life. Your personalized treatment plan may include one or more of the following:
Monitoring: For non-cancerous head and neck tumors that do not cause symptoms, your doctor may recommend a wait-and-see approach. If the tumor grows and begins to cause problems, it may need to be removed.
Surgery: At Rush, some head and neck tumors can be removed using a minimally invasive approach that allows you to go home earlier and results in a faster recovery with less pain. Rush surgeons offer the latest surgical techniques, including transoral robotic surgery or TORS and sentinel lymph node biopsy.
Radiation therapy: (intensity-modulated radiation therapy or proton beam therapy) is commonly used for these reasons:
- After surgery, destroy the remaining tumor cells.
- To treat tumors that come back (come back)
- Try to slow the growth of tumors that cannot be removed with surgery.
Chemotherapy used alone or in combination with radiation therapy and/or surgery.
Targeted therapy: drugs can help stop or slow the growth of certain types of head and neck cancer.
Rehabilitation is an important part of caring for head and neck tumors. Oftentimes, surgery to remove a head and neck tumor can affect a person’s ability to speak, swallow, or eat. In these cases, you may be referred for one or more of the following:
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Dietary advice
Plastic and reconstructive surgery may be needed after tumor removal surgery to rebuild bone or tissue.