Diagnosis & Treatment
To diagnose a head and neck cancer, we use tests such as:
- Physical examination
- Imaging exams such as CT, MRI, and PET/CT scanning
- Biopsy to remove a sample of tissue to analyze for cancer cells
Head and Neck Cancer Treatment
With careful consideration of the type, size, location, and stage of your tumor and your age and overall physical health, our team creates a personalized treatment plan for you. We consider whether or not your cancer is positive for the human papillomavirus (HPV). Our team is experienced in understanding how HPV status affects your treatment and outcomes.
Minimally invasive head and neck cancer surgery. If you've been diagnosed with cancer of the head and neck region, you may be concerned about how your treatment may affect how you look. We are, too, which is why you have access to Columbia University surgeons who use minimally invasive surgical techniques whenever they can.
Studies have shown that patients who receive minimally invasive surgery recover faster, have less pain, and recover function more quickly than patients who receive conventional surgery. Some tumors can be removed through the mouth and throat or through an endoscope inserted into the nose or mouth, with no external incisions.
Reconstructive surgery. Columbia's head and neck surgeons work closely with plastic and reconstructive surgeons to preserve your appearance and function. They also have special expertise in "revision surgery" for previously treated patients whose cancer returns. Removal of these tumors often requires cutting-edge techniques to restore the appearance and vital functions such as eating and speech.
Chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Chemotherapy may be given before surgery to shrink the tumor and/or afterward to kill any remaining cancer cells in the body. Depending on the type and stage of your cancer, it is often given in combination with radiation therapy.
Targeted therapies are designed to inhibit the proteins that fuel your cancer's growth. Immunotherapy boosts the power of the immune system to find and kill cancer cells. You can receive these treatments in our relaxing and comfortable Infusion Center staffed by oncology nurses who monitor your side effects and comfort.
Radiation therapy. Our radiation oncologists typically use intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which delivers highly targeted radiation of various intensities shaped to the contours of your tumor, and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), which takes into account tumor movement and response to treatment over time.
Some patients receive chemotherapy and radiation therapy over the same period. If this is the case, you can often receive your chemotherapy and radiation treatments on the same day in the same hospital. We know how valuable your time is and want to make your treatment as convenient as possible.