Head and Neck Cancer Experts at Northside

When you come to Northside Hospital Cancer Institute for head and neck cancer diagnosis and treatment, you have the strength of Georgia’s largest and most comprehensive community cancer care provider every step of the way.

Your Team of Head and Neck Cancer Specialists

At Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, we know it takes an entire team to support patients with a diagnosis of head and neck cancer. That’s why we bring together a whole group of specialists to assist you with your physical and emotional needs — from diagnosis through treatment and on to survivorship and improved wellness.

You’ll have access to a  multidisciplinary team of head and neck cancer specialists with expertise in diagnostic imaging, surgical and medical oncology, reconstructive surgery, radiation therapy and certified genetic counselors, and also:

  • Nurse navigators who can help you throughout the treatment process.
  • Research nurses (when applicable) to help you better understand your cancer.
  • Social workers who you can lean on for social, emotional and spiritual support.
  • Dietitians for health and nutrition.
  • Rehabilitation specialists to help you maintain strength and energy for daily activities.

Head and Neck Cancer Support Services 

Cancer treatments can be overwhelming. For those with head and neck cancer, treatment may lead to additional services such as physical therapy, speech therapy and nutrition counseling.

At Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, our cancer nurse navigators are there to guide you along your cancer care pathway.. They not only help you to coordinate your care and educate you about your treatment plan, but they also help you access Northside Hospital Cancer Institute support and survivorship resources.

More About Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers usually occur in the mouth, nose or throat. They also can start in your salivary glands, but it’s less common.

Overall, head and neck cancers aren’t very widespread. They account for about 4% of all cancers in the United States. However, they can have a significant impact on your life because of their location in the body. They may affect your ability to swallow, eat, talk or breathe. 

Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms 

Symptoms of head and neck cancer vary depending on the type of head and neck cancer and its location. In general, symptoms may include:

  • Trouble swallowing or pain when swallowing.
  • A lump or sore in the mouth, throat or neck that doesn’t go away.
  • Unusual bleeding in the mouth or through the nose.
  • Pain in the neck, throat, mouth, teeth or ears that doesn’t go away.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Chronic congestion or sinus infections that don’t go away even with treatment.

Head and Neck Cancer Risk Factors 

Men are more than twice as likely as women to get head and neck cancer. But tobacco use, heavy alcohol use and infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are by far the highest risk factors for some types of head and neck cancer. The risk of mouth cancer rises even higher if you use tobacco and alcohol together. A few other risk factors include:

  • Prolonged sun exposure.
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
  • Exposure to radiation.
  • Poor oral and dental hygiene.
  • Regular exposure to wood dust, asbestos and other substances .
  • Chewing betel quid or gutka (common in some areas of Asia)

Diagnosing Your Head and Neck Cancer 

Currently, there are no special screening tests designed to detect head and neck cancers before they start causing problems. But, it’s a good idea to receive regularly recommended checkups by your primary care doctor and your dentist that include examining your neck, mouth and throat.

Imaging: Diagnosing head and neck cancer usually requires a full evaluation by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist. After doing a physical exam, your doctor may order one or more diagnostic imaging procedures. This involves getting a picture of the inside of your ears, nose, mouth or throat using X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) or positron emission tomography (PET).

Endoscopy: Your doctor may also want you to have an endoscopy. In this procedure, a doctor will look inside your nose, mouth and throat using a tiny video camera and light mounted on the end of a very small tube. 

Biopsy: If doctors suspect cancer, they usually perform a biopsy. That’s when they take out a little piece of tissue to check it for cancer cells. This is one of the best ways to see if you have cancer. 

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Options at Northside

Head and neck cancer treatments at Northside may include surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy depending on your stage and specific type of head and neck cancer you have. Chemotherapy uses medicine to treat cancer. Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays or particles to kill cancer cells.

Surgery plus radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may be recommended if you’re at high risk for cancer coming back. For patients who are not surgical candidates, radiation therapy alone or in combination with chemotherapy is used to kill the cancer cells.

Northside Hospital Cancer Institute is on the leading edge of cancer research through our dedicated Research Program. As one of the largest community-based oncology/hematology programs in the nation, we provide best-in-class care, including access to a range of clinical trials. People who participate in cancer clinical trials contribute to advancing the knowledge about specific cancers and treatments, helping in the development of better cancer treatment options.

No matter what treatment options you choose, our experts will tailor a cancer treatment plan to fit your goals and needs.