Treating Head & Neck Cancer

At Scott & White, You’re Treated as a Person, Not a Diagnosis
Our Tumor Board Sets Us Apart

As a head and neck cancer patient at Scott & White, in addition to having a highly experienced Integrated Care Team, you’ll also benefit from the expertise of the Scott & White Tumor Board.

Led by senior staff, our multidisciplinary board consists of head and neck cancer experts who discuss available approaches to care and formulate patient-specific treatment plans. This treatment planning helps ensure you receive the highest quality, individualized care.

If your head and neck cancer is caught early, you’ll do well. The cure rates for Stage 1 and 2 head and neck cancers are good. The cure rates are 80 to 90 percent.

D. Randall Pinkston, MD; Chief – Section of Head & Neck Surgical Oncology

Cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box are serious. But they’re rarely fatal. When detected and treated early, your chances of cure are high.

Our ENT surgical, radiation and medical oncologists are first-rate in the clinical care and management of head and neck malignancies. They have the expertise and skill to guide you through treatment toward cure.

On your multidisciplinary Head & Neck Cancer Team are oncologists, oral surgeons, nutritionists, and many others. We have a team approach toward the advanced care of your complex aerodigestive system.

Additionally, scores of specialists and subspecialists are immediately available for consult and assistance, when needed.

It requires a multidisciplinary approach in order to effectively handle head and neck cancers.

D. Randall Pinkston, MD; Chief – Section of Head & Neck Surgical Oncology

As a Scott & White patient, you’ll also benefit from having a multidisciplinary team — your Integrated Care Team — working together to provide you with the best care possible at all stages of your cancer treatment.

The members of your Integrated Care Team bring together the collective skill and expertise from all the specialties and subspecialties involved in your care, which can include:

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Collaborative Care and Expertise Help Ensure the Best Outcome for You

Sophisticated cancer care takes teamwork. That’s why Scott & White promotes a collaborative environment.

Your Integrated Care Team will met to discuss your specific needs and determine the best treatment options for you to consider. Then your lead physician will talk with you and, if you’d like, your family, about the team’s recommendations.

Together, you and your lead physician will decide which treatment choice is best for you.

Throughout your treatment, your physicians will continue to meet regularly to discuss your care. This ongoing, close collaboration helps ensure the best outcome for you.

Following active treatment, your Integrated Care Team will work with you to create the most appropriate follow-up care plan.

It usually boils down to one or two options, which we offer to the family. We give them some time to think about it and then let us know what they want to do. Oftentimes though we feel like there’s one option that is better. I don’t hesitate to tell the family that. I’ll tell them: ‘You have options, but this is what I would do if it were my dad or my mom.’

D. Randall Pinkston, MD; Chief – Section of Head & Neck Surgical Oncology

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Treatment Goals

At Scott & White, the primary goal of your Head & Neck Cancer Team is to remove as much cancer as possible.

The second goal is to limit the effects of the treatment on your body and preserve functionality of your organs and structures.

Your oncologists’ goal is to minimize morbidity — meaning the suffering that you may have as a result of treatment. They’ll bring in the subspecialists necessary to reduce the likelihood of long-term effects on your ability to eat, speak or breathe normally.

We try to find a way to treat this cancer without removing vital structures like voice boxes, tongues, jawbones. Quality of life is paramount.

D. Randall Pinkston, MD; Chief – Section of Head & Neck Surgical Oncology

Your Treatment Options

At Scott & White, we explore every treatment option, considering surgical and nonsurgical alternatives. In many cases, your head and neck cancer treatment will include a combination of approaches. Treatment options include:

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Factors That Impact Your Treatment

Your treatment options for your head and neck cancer generally depend on these factors:

  • Type, stage and location of tumor
  • Whether your cancer is early stage or advanced
  • Whether your cancer has spread
  • How fast your tumor is growing
  • Your age and general health
  • Your personal preference

Early-Stage Head & Neck Cancer

Generally speaking, at Scott & White, early-stage head and neck cancers are treated with either:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation and/or chemotherapy

Your physician will review the effectiveness and side effects of both treatment options with you. You will decide which treatment option you prefer.

There are lots of data showing that with early-stage head and neck cancers, radiation therapy and surgery are equivalent. So it’s really the patient’s choice of whatever side effect profile they want to go with, as far as whether they want to go with surgery or irradiation for first line treatment.

D. Randall Pinkston, MD; Chief – Section of Head & Neck Surgical Oncology

Advanced-Stage Head & Neck Cancer

For advanced head and neck cancers, generally speaking, our approach at Scott & White is to treat your cancer nonsurgically with combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

In most cases, head and neck cancers do not spread (metastasize) widely throughout your body, though they may become locally advanced in the head and neck.

Even in advanced disease, like Stage 4 disease, head and neck cancers tend to stay confined in the head and neck. They can be very locally aggressive and can become a very serious, ominous problem, but they tend not to go to your liver, bones, or brain.

D. Randall Pinkston, MD; Chief – Section of Head & Neck Surgical Oncology

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