Treatment for Tumors in the Neck and Throat
Salivary and Parotid Gland Tumors
The parotid gland is the largest salivary gland, located in the cheek near the ear. Other major salivary glands include the submandibular and sublingual glands, and tumors can develop in all three. Salivary gland tumors may be cancerous or benign. If they’re cancerous, it’s important to determine if the cancer has spread from another area of the body. Diagnosing a salivary gland tumor often starts with a needle biopsy, the case is usually reviewed by the Otolaryngology Tumor Board, and a treatment approach is developed.
While most tumors of the salivary glands are not cancerous, they almost always need to be removed surgically. Because tumors in the parotid gland are often closely entwined with the facial nerve, operating on the parotid gland requires meticulous surgery to avoid damaging that nerve. Our surgeons have advanced training and experience treating even the most complicated cases.
Benign and Malignant Neck Tumors
As with other tumors, neck tumors may be cancerous or benign. Most often, they develop in the neck after spreading from another area of the body, such as the lymph nodes, the tonsils or the tongue. Determining whether the tumor is cancerous or not and where it may have originated are two of the most important things we do. Armed with that knowledge, we can develop a treatment plan that aggressively treats the tumor while avoiding nearby areas that don’t need treatment.
A variety of conditions and diseases can cause neck tumors, whether cancerous or benign. Tumors can develop in almost any structure in the neck. In some cases, people have congenital neck tumors — tumors they were born with that are discovered in adulthood. These tumors can generally be treated surgically. Regardless of the cause, our team has the skills, tools, knowledge and expertise to treat these tumors successfully.
Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer
The most common form of cancer in the oral cavity, which includes the lips, is squamous cell carcinoma. In its early stages, oral cavity cancer is highly curable. At Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, we treat all types of oral cavity cancer, including the most complicated cases. Patients benefit from our well-coordinated multidisciplinary approach to care from a team of medical and dental specialists who work closely together to treat oral cavity cancer, which often requires surgery. The team also includes speech pathologists and other specialists critical to care, before, during and after treatment.
Patients having surgery on the oral cavity may need dental work done at the same time, and they will meet with an oral surgeon in advance. These patients may also need reconstructive or plastic surgery to rebuild the bones or tissues of the mouth. Reconstructive surgeries, including microvascular reconstructive surgery, are also performed by a plastic surgeon or a head and neck surgeon.
Cancer of the Larynx (Voice Box)
With laryngeal cancer or cancer of the larynx (voice box), we work to preserve the larynx whenever possible using proven methods of successfully treating the cancer without damaging or removing the voice box. We have aggressively treated laryngeal cancer with the right combinations of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, while preserving the voice box and the patient’s quality of life.
Surgery is still a vitally important tool in the fight against cancer, and we offer a spectrum of surgical procedures – including minimally invasive laser procedures, such as transoral laser microsurgery (TLM), and partial or total voice box removal or laryngectomy. We work closely with all laryngeal cancer patients to make sure they make the most informed decision about their treatment options. Additionally, our team of speech-language pathologists are experts in rehabilitation after treatment of laryngeal cancer, and can provide a variety of options to help the patient return to a functional and perhaps near normal voice.
Cancer of the Pharynx (Throat)
The pharynx is made up of three parts: the nasopharynx, the upper part behind the nose; the oropharynx or middle part which includes the tonsils, soft palate and base of the tongue; and the hypopharynx or lower part. Cancer can occur in all three parts. As with cancer of the larynx, we take an organ preservation approach to treating cancer of the pharynx, using combinations of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, depending on the patient’s condition. Minimally invasive laser procedures may also be used in treatment.
Team members are skilled in looking beyond treatment to anticipate potential problems as early as possible and make referrals to appropriate specialists to shorten treatment and speed recovery.