Head and neck cancer

Cancer develops when abnormal cells grow out of control and form a mass (tumor). Head and neck tumors often affect the tongue, throat or voice box. It’s possible to live an active life again after a cancer diagnosis. Care at Geisinger gives you the best chance for good results. 

Head and neck cancer can also affect your: 

  • Nasal cavity, the hollow space behind your nose
  • Oral cavity, which includes the mouth, lips, gums, tongue and roof of the mouth 
  • Saliva glands
  • Sinuses
  • Thyroid gland

What you should know about head and neck cancer

  • This group of cancers often forms in cells that line the moist surfaces within the head and neck. 
  • Using tobacco and drinking too much alcohol may increase your risk of head and neck cancer. 

Why choose Geisinger for your head and neck cancer care?

  • Convenience: Geisinger makes it easy to get the care you need. Our cancer specialists are available in clinics throughout the region. We offer a special clinic where you can see multiple specialists, including radiation therapists, oncologists and surgeons, in one visit. Our team approach helps you learn your options so you can start treatment as soon as possible. 
  • Surgical care: Our surgeons remove tumors while minimizing changes to your appearance. If the cancer is in your oral cavity, we may need to remove a portion of your jaw. We insert a new titanium jaw piece through a small incision that only leaves a tiny scar. The titanium allows for a natural-looking jawline that holds its shape over time. Find out more about cancer surgery
  • Support: We offer services to help you feel like your old self after treatment. This support includes help with talking, swallowing and eating from a speech pathologist who specializes in working with cancer patients. Our survivorship clinic helps you make a smooth transition back to everyday life. We also offer emotional support and help solving practical problems such as finding transportation to doctor’s appointments. Learn more about cancer support

Treatment options

Geisinger’s head and neck cancer specialists deliver sophisticated treatments that destroy tumors and help you enjoy a good quality of life. 

  • Chemotherapy : Strong drugs destroy cancer cells, prevent them from spreading or slow their growth.
  • Cancer clinical trials : Get access to potentially life-saving treatments by participating in a national clinical research study.
  • Immunotherapy : We use drugs made of special proteins (biologics) to jumpstart the immune system. Biologics help your body detect and destroy cancer.
  • Surgery : Pediatric surgeons remove tumors without harming nearby organs or tissues.
  • Radiation therapy : This treatment uses radiation (X-ray) beams to destroy cancer cells.
  • 3-D conformal radiation therapy (3-D CRT) : We use special technology to position radiation beams so they precisely match irregularly shaped tumors. 
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) : We use sophisticated technology to tailor the shape and intensity of high-dose radiation beams.
  • Targeted therapy : We deliver high doses of radiation therapy with the help of tiny beads we inject into the tumor.

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