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Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancer


You or someone you know may have been diagnosed with head and neck cancer.

This video will help you understand some of the available treatment options.

The most common type of head and neck cancer, called squamous cell carcinoma, is a disease where cancer cells form inside the nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, voicebox, or salivary glands.

Your doctor will make a treatment plan specifically for your tumor.

It will be based on the location of the tumor, the stage of the disease, how far it has spread, and your age and general health.

Treatments may include one or more of the following:


radiation therapy


targeted therapy

and immunotherapy

There are several types of surgery, depending on the size and location of the tumor.

Surgery may be used to remove the cancer, or repair a function that was damaged by the cancer.

Another treatment option is radiation therapy.

It uses radiation to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.

External radiation therapy uses a machine that aims radiation at the cancer from outside the body.

Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive source that gives off radiation.

The radioactive source is put inside the body, into or near the cancer.

Chemotherapy fights cancer by using drugs.

These drugs may act on the whole body, or they may act on one area.

Targeted therapy uses drugs that are designed to target specific cancer cells.

Some of these drugs act by preventing the cancer cells from growing and dividing.

Since these drugs mainly affect the cancer cells, there's less damage to normal cells.

Immunotherapy helps your immune system fight cancer.

Cancer cells can sometimes "hide" from the immune cells that attack them.

For example, cancer and immune cells may have proteins, called checkpoint proteins.

When they attach, attack from immune cells is stopped.

Some immunotherapy drugs for head and neck cancer act by blocking the checkpoint proteins from attaching to each other.

As a result, the immune cell can attack and destroy the cancer cell.

If you have questions about head and neck cancer or any medications you have been prescribed, talk to your doctor.

It is important to take your medications as directed, and report any side effects you may have.