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Each year, about 350 new patients receive head and neck cancer care at UW Medicine’s Head and Neck Cancer Center. They are among an estimated 40,000 people diagnosed with the disease each year, according to the National Institutes of Health. The service is dedicated to clinical care, research and education in the cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of all cancers of the head and neck.

Treatment of this cancer is often complex and requires a comprehensive clinical approach. To ensure the best medical, functional, and cosmetic outcomes for patients, the head and neck service takes an interdisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating all types and stages of cancers that occur in the tongue, jaw, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), thyroid gland, salivary gland, paranasal sinuses, and skull-base. Individualized treatment for head and neck melanomas, non-melanoma skin malignancies, and sarcomas of the soft tissue and bone are also provided.

The Head and Neck Tumor Board, a panel of physicians, nurses and therapists, meets weekly to discuss patient cases. Experts in surgical oncology and reconstruction, radiation oncology, medical oncology, neuro-radiology, pathology, and maxillofacial prosthetics, diagnose and develop treatment plans for patients with these tumors. “Head and neck cancer patients can receive the consensus of ten or more professional opinions without having to go to ten different doctors,” says Dr. Neal Futran, professor and director of the UW Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Service. “Our team discusses the diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment plan, including the best uses of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.”

In addition to excellent clinical care and surgical expertise, the Head and Neck Service offers patients a team of physicians who specialize in rehabilitation medicine, as well as experts in speech and language pathology, audiology, social work, nutrition, physical therapy, and respiratory therapy.

UW Medical Center has a dedicated head and neck inpatient unit and an experienced nursing staff highly trained in the management and care of patients with these tumors.

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Options:
Although head and neck cancer is only about 5 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States, the disease can cause significant functional and aesthetic problems. The University of Washington Cancer Center is on the leading edge of the best surgical and non-surgical therapies available.
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Surgery may be required to remove a cancerous tumor, which may affect the appearance of the face or neck and/or may interfere with speech, sight, and functions of the mouth, including chewing, swallowing, or the abilities to smell and taste.

    • Voice-sparing surgery of the larynx
    • State-of-the-art microvascular reconstruction of the head and neck
    • Advanced skull-base surgery
    • Parathyroid, thyroid, and salivary-gland surgery
    • Cosmetic surgery
    • Reconstructive surgery after cancer

We have a head and neck inpatient unit and an experienced nursing staff dedicated to the management of these patients

Non-Surgical Treatment Options:
Non-surgical treatment options of radiation and chemotherapy may be used as a follow-up treatment to surgery. Or, depending upon the stage and pathology finding, some tumors can be managed with chemotherapy and radiation instead of surgery.

Speech and Swallowing Rehabilitation:
All new patients who receive radiation treatment to the head and neck are seen before treatment and weekly during treatment by an oral medicine specialist to aid in the prevention and management of oral/dental treatment side effects. This service gives patients access to new and emerging therapies that help preserve salivary function and maintain oral tissue integrity and dental health, both during and after radiation treatment. Other patients who have oral/dental problems during cancer therapy are also seen. Comprehensive services related to speech and swallowing rehabilitation, physical therapy, nutrition, and social work specific to head and neck oncology are available.

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