Health Questions and Answers

Question: What is the most appropriate treatment of head and neck cancer?


Early-stage head and neck cancers are treated primarily with surgery, usually involving radical neck node dissection, sometimes accompanied by postoperative radiotherapy. Radiotherapy is also used for recurrences that are not amenable to surgery. Depending on tumor location and stage, some head and neck cancers are treated with multimodality therapy, using chemotherapy in combination with radiotherapy, or prior to surgery or radiotherapy. For cancer of the larynx, vocal cord preservation with chemotherapy and radiotherapy is preferred whenever possible. Cessation of smoking and alcohol consumption is essential to decrease the occurrence of second primary cancers in the head and neck region.

Reference: Casciato DA, Lowitz BB (eds): Manual of Clinical Oncology, 5th ed. Boston, Little, Brown, 2000.

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