Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer

Expert oral, head, and neck cancer care focused on your needs.

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Doctor examining a female patient's neck

What you need to know

Oral, head and neck cancers happen when cells grow out of control. The most common form is called “squamous cell carcinoma.” These are cancers that develop in the squamous cells that line moist surfaces inside the head and neck — the mouth, nose and throat, for example.

These cancers account for about 4 percent of all U.S. cancers. They are more common among men than women and in people over age 50.

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Understand your diagnosis

At this point, you’ve likely had a physical exam and reviewed your health history with your provider. You may have also had a biopsy to confirm your diagnosis. Following a diagnosis of an oral, head or neck cancer, you may have more tests to help your doctor understand your cancer stage. 

Cancer staging involves identifying where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread and if it is affecting other parts of your body. Knowing the stage allows your doctor to develop your personalized treatment plan. 

Some of the tests your doctor may recommend are:

  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Barium swallow
  • Panorex films
  • Chest X-ray
  • Bone scan

Customized treatment plans

Because each person and every cancer is different, your doctor uses your tests and exams to come up with an individual treatment plan. How long this takes depends on how complex your case is and your treatment goals. During this time, you build a relationship with your cancer doctors. You become a team for your care.

Open, honest communication can only benefit your relationship with your doctors. These tips can also help you get the most from this partnership:

  • Prepare in advance: Write down your questions ahead of your visits. A few examples of smart questions:
               - Why are we doing these tests?
               - Why do you think this treatment is right?
               - What side effects might this treatment cause?
  • Find trustworthy resources: If you’re looking to learn more, rely on this website or sources your team recommends, so you can make decisions based on good information.
  • Take a partner: Bringing a friend or family member to appointments can make you feel more confident and help you remember important details.

Treatment options

There are several ways to treat oral, head and neck cancer depending on the type and location of the tumor. Options may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. People often receive a combination of treatments.

Learn more about your treatment options.

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.

Nurse navigators
Legacy Cancer Healing Center 
Support groups and classes
Cancer rehabilitation 
Survivorship services

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