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Weill Cornell Cancer Center

Treatment

The choice of treatment for head and neck cancers depends on the type, location, and stage of the disease as well as the patient's age and physical health. Care at the Weill Cornell Cancer Center is comprehensive and integrated, with physicians coordinating each patient's treatment while from diagnosis through treatment and follow-up. This is especially important for patients with head and neck cancers, who often receive a combination of therapies right from the start.

Surgery

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Weill Cornell Cancer Center surgeons take a minimally invasive approach to head and neck cancer surgery whenever possible. Our surgeons use endoscopic approaches to tumor removal that are performed without having to make any external incisions. For example, some early-stage and mid-stage tumors of the tongue base, tonsils, larynx, and pharynx can be removed through the mouth, while some skull base tumors may be removed through the nose. Such approaches reduce the need for a tracheotomy (breathing tube after surgery), reduce the length of the hospital stay, and speed recovery.

Endoscopic surgery also enhances the chance of preserving the larynx in patients with larynx cancer. A combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy is frequently used before surgery for these patients. If the cancer persists or recurs, the larynx may need to be removed. By performing endoscopic tumor removal first and then giving chemotherapy and radiation therapy (as well as laser therapy in select patients), doctors can offer patients another therapeutic option before resorting to removal of the larynx.

Robotic Surgery

Weill Cornell Cancer Center surgeons are evaluating robotic surgery as an investigational approach for treating patients with head and neck cancers.

Open Surgery

For patients requiring more radical surgery, Weill Cornell Cancer Center surgical oncologists work closely with reconstructive surgeons to preserve form and function in patients with head and neck cancers. We use three-dimensional modeling prior to reconstruction to determine where to make incisions and preserve facial symmetry as much as possible. Moreover, the reconstruction is most often performed during the same procedure as tumor removal.

Radiation Therapy

Our radiation oncologists piloted the use of intensity-modulated radiation therapy, which is now a standard of care for head and neck cancer treatment. This form of treatment enables highly targeted radiation to be delivered in various intensities to the shape of the tumor, sparing nearby healthy tissue. Our radiation oncologists are also investigating image-guided radiation therapy for head and neck cancer patients, which delivers treatment while taking into account tumor movement and response to treatment over time.

More about radiation therapy for head and neck cancers.

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