The head and neck cancer care team at Carle Cancer Institute not only focuses on aggressive and effective treatment, but also on instilling knowledge and hope in patients undergoing what is often a trying, unknown journey. We are here to walk with you and your family from the initial stages of diagnosis through recovery.
Beyond treatment, we also strive to expedite a return to normal activities. We understand that your concerns often go beyond that of seeking a cure. Common concerns among patients include, "Will my life return to 'normal'?" and "How will treatment affect my appearance?" We understand these concerns and are prepared to preserve function and appearance to the greatest degree possible. We will also offer support and guidance through a patient's rehabilitation and recovery.
Carle Cancer Institute is the premier cancer treatment and support center in east central Illinois, offering more resources to help patients in the fight against cancer. With the area's largest and most specialized team of fellowship trained oncologists, surgeons and staff, patients get in for diagnosis and start treatment as soon as possible.FIND A DOCTOR VISIT INSTITUTE
Our multidisciplinary team includes:
Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Options
At Carle Cancer Institute, the latest state-of-the-art treatments and technologies are available to you. It’s important to remember that different types of cancers require different treatments based on a variety of factors. For this reason, your treatment plan will be designed to meet the needs and requirements of your specific type of head or neck cancer.
Our team creates an individualized treatment plan for each patient. Treatment plans depend upon:
Patients and doctors will confer to carefully consider treatment options, while considering how the treatment might change your appearance, speech ability, and eating and breathing. There is much to consider, and each step will be carefully analyzed for your best interest.
Treatment options may include:
Surgery is often the first method used in diagnosing or treating cancer. It may be followed by other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Some surgical procedures are done in an outpatient setting, while others may require hospitalization. We use the latest techniques to treat tumors and reconstruct tissue while restoring function and appearance.
Our surgeons, oncologists and other physicians work as a team to obtain the best possible outcome for you. Surgery may be performed to achieve one or more of the following goals:
Preventive surgery is performed to remove growths or tissues that are likely to develop into cancer.
Diagnosis and Staging
A biopsy may be performed to discover whether a growth is cancerous, and if so, how far the disease has progressed.
Curative surgery aims to remove an entire tumor.
Called "debulking," this surgery is performed to remove the majority of a tumor. Some cancer cells may remain and may be removed by other treatment methods.
Palliative surgery does not treat cancer but rather alleviates pain and other complications that a cancer may cause.
Reconstructive surgery addresses body image concerns resulting from cancer or cancer treatment. Options may include facial reconstruction or scar revision.
Chemotherapy for head and neck cancer can be given orally or intravenously. The most common method of administration is directly into the bloodstream. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach all parts of the body. Targeted therapy for head and neck cancer is often considered chemotherapy since it is given intravenously as with chemotherapy. Traditional chemotherapy generally kills both cancer cells but also some normal cells. Targeted therapy interferes with the growth, progression and spread of the cancer cells while limiting damage on the normal cells. Chemotherapy for head and neck cancer is often given at the same time as radiation because some chemotherapies are considered radiosensitizers which means they work with the radiation to improve the treatment outcome. Chemotherapy as well as targeted therapy are usually given in cycles. Periods of chemotherapy treatments are alternated with rest periods when no chemotherapy is given. Chemotherapy may be administered in a single day, over the course of a few days, once a week or even once a month. The frequency of chemotherapy depends largely on the type of cancer and type of drug or drugs being given. The length of time for chemotherapy is based on research evidence guidelines, response to treatment and side effects encountered. Depending on the cell type and stage of head and neck cancer, most individuals receive chemotherapy for three to six cycles. Occasionally chemotherapy is given before surgery to help decrease the size of the cancer and improve the outcome after surgery. This type of chemotherapy is called neoadjuvant.
Very few chemotherapy treatments require hospital admission. Some chemotherapy drugs come in an oral form and can be taken at home. By far the most common setting for chemotherapy administration is in a specialized chemotherapy infusion center, which is staffed by our specially-trained infusion nurses.
Common chemotherapy drugs given for head and neck cancer include: Cisplatin, Taxotere, 5FU, and Methotrexate. The targeted therapy for head and neck cancer is Erbitux.
Side effects from chemotherapy can be well controlled or may not occur for some patients. Common side effects may include: hair loss, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, appetite changes, nausea or vomiting, numbness or tingling of the hands and feet. Erbitux can cause the following side effects: allergic reaction during or after administration and an acne-like rash.
Radiation oncology aims to reduce tumors by creating chemical changes within cancer cells. Because it is highly localized, radiation therapy produces limited side effects and is one of the most precise treatment options available. Radiation therapy may be delivered in one of the following forms:
The most common type of radiation therapy, external beam radiation therapy is designed to target a specific part of your body. The treatment machines aim high-powered beams inside the body at cancer cells to prevent them from dividing.
A form of external beam therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) breaks the radiation into thousands of thin beams to better target the cancer and minimize effects on surrounding tissue.
Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), one of the most cutting edge innovations in fighting cancer, combines imaging and treatment capabilities on a single machine.
IMRT and IGRT are used together to treat cancers of the head and neck. The treatments are very precise, and require extreme accuracy in positioning. Because the positioning is so important, we use special immobilization devices to keep your body in the same position. One of the devices used is called a mask. A mask is a custom made plastic shell that is worn over the face or face/neck and is fixed to the treatment table. Wearing a mask reduces the possibility of any movement while you are being treated.
The mask is made in our department. A Carle staff member will position you on a procedure table and drape a warm sheet of plastic mesh over your head. The mesh has plenty of ventilation, so you will be able to see and breathe normally. As the mask cools, it becomes hard. It will be used each day you come for treatment.