Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Options
Because head and neck cancers are complicated diseases, we offer the most cutting-edge treatments based on the latest evidence and delivered by a highly skilled team of specialists.
Multidisciplinary Treatment for Head and Neck Cancers
A multidisciplinary approach means patients don’t just receive one opinion from one physician. Experts from head and neck surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology, radiology, pathology, speech pathology and other areas are involved in each case as appropriate, and they’re all in one location. This team approach means patients get the best possible care and learn about the latest treatment options from all relevant specialties. Learn more about the following treatment options:
The right medicines, the right combinations and the right sequences matter greatly in treating head, neck and skull base cancers. For each patient, team members determine the best treatment approach. In recent years, for example, research has shown that some head and neck cancers can be successfully treated without removing important organs, such as the larynx (voice box). This move away from surgery and toward organ preservation can make a dramatic difference in the quality of a patient’s life. (Surgery and surgical reconstruction, however, still have vital roles in treating many head and neck cancers.) Chemotherapy that works for one kind of cancer, doesn’t work for every kind of cancer or every patient.
Our surgeons are experts in minimally invasive procedures. Surgical treatment options now include procedures performed through the mouth without external incisions or scars. These procedures are often performed with surgical endoscopes and microscopes using the latest laser technology and have the benefit of maximizing functional outcome while minimizing operative morbidity but still remaining oncologically sound.
Otolaryngology (Head and Neck) Tumor Board
The Otolaryngology Tumor Board is a weekly meeting of physician specialists who gather to review and discuss cases and recommend treatment for each patient. Other facilities may have one tumor board that reviews a small percentage of all kinds of cancer cases they see. Froedtert & the Medical College have nine different tumor boards and almost all head and neck cancer patients have their cases reviewed by the Otolaryngology Tumor Board
A broad spectrum of resources for patients and their families are also available. We offer genetics counseling for people with a strong family history of cancer, and social services to help smokers quit. Our Palliative Care Program is the only one of its kind in the state and a national leader in end-of-life care, research and education. We do our best to help patients find the resources they need.
We value each patient’s quality of life as much as successfully treating their condition. We prepare patients for life after treatment even before it begins. We want patients to do more than just survive the cancer; we want them to thrive after cancer.
Pretreatment counseling is another important part of patient care. Many patients face significant lifestyle changes that can affect their ability to eat, swallow, talk and breathe in the short- or long-term. We arrange appointments with the appropriate specialists for each patient prior to treatment. Nurse practitioners work with each patient to assist in guiding them through the process. Speech-Language Pathologists with specific expertise in head and neck cancer rehabilitation are involved early and provide counseling and treatment planning related to swallowing and voice. For example, patients having laryngeal surgery will see a speech pathologist before their surgery to talk about side effects and follow-up care.
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. Patients having thyroid surgery may meet with an endocrinologist to discuss possible side effects after surgery. In some cases, staff will arrange for a patient to meet with someone who’s been through the same procedure to talk about what life is like after treatment.
Support Tools, Screenings and Resources
As part of our patient-focused approach, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin offer support programs, including the Head and Neck Cancer Survivor Wellness Forum. We also offer a full slate of screenings and health resources unlike any other in the state. From classes and workshops to online tools and more, we want our patients to be active in their own health care, recovery and healing.