Head & Neck Tumors


Otolaryngologists at our center treat all tumors of the head and neck. These tumors, or neoplasms, are abnormal growths of tissue. They can appear on or in the ear, throat, jaw or mouth, tongue, tonsils, salivary glands, sinuses, thyroid, lips or scalp.

Upper aerodigestive tract tumors

The upper aerodigestive tract is subdivided into the oral cavity, throat (pharynx) and voice box (larynx). A variety of benign and malignant tumors may occur in various parts of the throat, causing symptoms such as difficulty or pain with swallowing, voice change, weight loss, ear pain or coughing up blood. The risk factors for cancer in these areas are long-term tobacco and alcohol use. People with these risk factors who experience cancer symptoms should seek a complete head and neck evaluation.

Salivary-gland tumors

The salivary glands include the parotid, submandibular, and sublingual glands, as well as numerous minor glands located throughout the upper aerodigestive tract (the throat). A salivary-gland tumor may be malignant or benign. This type of tumor typically presents as a slow-growing, non-tender lump on the side of the face in front of the ear, at the angle of the jaw, or in the oral cavity.

Skin cancers

Skin cancer frequently occurs in the head and neck. These growths often appear as non-healing ulcers on the scalp, ears or lips. Generally, larger lesions or lesions that involve the nose or ear are managed by head and neck surgical oncologists, particularly when skin reconstruction is necessary.

The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Each type has its own unique pattern of spread and behavior and requires tailored treatment.

What are the symptoms of head and neck tumors?

Symptoms can include difficulty or pain with swallowing, voice change or persistent hoarseness, weight loss, ear pain, coughing up blood, a firm lump on the side of the face or in the mouth, or a non-healing ulcer on the scalp, ears or lips.

How are head and neck tumors diagnosed?

If a patient has symptoms that suggest the presence of a tumor, the patient’s physician will work with a team of specialists to confirm the diagnosis. A specialist will conduct a CT scan and/or MRI. Hearing, swallowing and vision tests also may be performed. The diagnosis can be confirmed by a biopsy.

What treatments are available?

Specialists have powerful tools at their disposal in the treatment of head and neck tumors, with even more promising treatments on the horizon.

Treatments include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • High-precision radiosurgery, including three-dimensional conformal radiotherapy and stereotactic radiosurgery
  • Image-guided neurosurgery
  • Intraoperative MRI
  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Restorative treatments
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