What Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Options Are Currently Available?

What Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Options Are Currently Available?

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What Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Options Are Currently Available? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Head and neck cancer expert Dr. Ari Rosenberg shares an overview of treatment types and explains how treatments may vary for individual patients.

Dr. Ari Rosenberg is a medical oncologist and assistant professor of medicine at The University of Chicago Medicine. Learn more about Dr. Rosenberg.

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I’d like to pivot now to talk about treatment options for head and neck cancer. What types of treatments are currently available? 

Dr. Rosenberg:

Yeah, so it depends on lots of factors, and part of that is the type, and the stage, and the location, and things like that, but I can give some general perspectives. For very early-stage head and neck cancer, oftentimes, the treatment is either surgery or radiation alone, oftentimes some of the treatments. However, a lot of times, head and neck cancer can be local regionally advanced, or having spread to some of the local areas, such as lymph nodes within the head and neck space, and there it’s quite variable.  

Sometimes patients will get surgery first, followed by – depending on some of the specific factors – radiation, or radiation and chemotherapy afterwards.  

And oftentimes, for local regionally advanced head and neck cancer, treatment can include non-surgical therapy, such as chemoradiation, or chemotherapy and radiation-based approaches. And then, of course, for more advanced cases, either cases of head and neck cancer that either come back after treatment, or in cases that have spread to other parts of the body, we have other therapies, such as immunotherapy therapy, or immunotherapy with chemotherapy, or some of those kinds of treatment. So, generally, those are some of the options. But again, with head and neck cancer, it’s extremely personalized.  

The most important thing is that a multidisciplinary team is able to review the case as a group to figure out what type of treatment approach will optimize not only the likelihood of cure and survival, but also long-term function and quality of life. And whatever treatment modality is needed to achieve those goals, that’s what should be recommended with that type of multidisciplinary team.  


Yeah. Dr. Rosenberg, you touched upon this just a moment ago, but I would like to ask you to this question. Are the options different in any way for advanced or metastatic disease?  

Dr. Rosenberg:

So, the answer is yes, and the short answer is it depends. But I think the longer answer is that we have therapies that have been shown in more advanced disease, and we’re really talking about cases where cancer has come back, or has spread to other parts of the body, where we have new treatments that help patients in that challenging situation live longer. The main one has been the development of immunotherapy as a treatment option, either alone or in combination with chemotherapy, and that has really improved outcomes for patients with very advanced head and neck cancer treatment and cases.