Risk Factors, Screening and Diagnosis | Personalized Treatment | Additional Patient Support

A wide range of tumors fall into the category of “head and neck cancer” and may involve the mouth, throat, voice box, swallowing passages, salivary glands, nasal passages, sinuses, skin of the face, head and scalp.

The experienced, collaborative team of specialists at NorthShore Kellogg Cancer Center combines the most advanced scientific knowledge and technology with a comprehensive and compassionate approach to care, creating a program of personalized medicine and patient-centered care for each individual diagnosed with head and neck cancer.

Drawing from the diverse experience of physicians, surgeons, nurses, researchers and a host of other highly trained healthcare professionals, the Kellogg Cancer Center team works collaboratively and is dedicated to putting patients—and families—at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

Patients who are newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer have the added support of a specialized oncology nurse navigator to guide them through their diagnosis and cancer treatment.

As part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, NorthShore provides our patients even greater access to a broad network of experts. NorthShore and Mayo specialists share expertise and collaborate on complex disease diagnoses and treatments. Patients benefit from enhanced care at NorthShore, without the need to travel outside the region.

Head and Neck Cancer Risk Factors, Screening and Diagnosis

Head and neck cancers can be particularly distressing because they may affect both basic human functions, such as talking, eating or swallowing and physical appearance. Some factors known to contribute to the risk of developing head and neck cancers include:

  • Tobacco Smoking
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection

Some head and neck cancer symptoms include non-healing mouth sores, pain with swallowing, persistent sore throat, difficulty swallowing, pain in the ear, and shortness of breath, spitting or coughing up blood, and a lump or lymph node in the neck.

If head and neck cancer is suspected, a physician will review a patient’s medical history and conduct a physical exam. The physician may order a variety of diagnostic tests to identify specific cases of head and neck cancers. These tests could include:

  • Laryngoscopy or Endoscopy
  • Laboratory tests to examine samples of blood, urine, or other substances from the body.
  • X-rays, including CT scan, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or PET scan to produce images of the suspicious areas
  • Biopsy of a mass in the neck, mouth, throat or larynx

Personalized Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

If a diagnosis of head and neck cancer is made, a physician will determine the severity or stage of the cancer, including whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Treatment will be recommended based on the stage and type of cancer.

Every week, your cross functional team meets in a multidisciplinary conference to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized head and neck treatment plan. For head and neck cancer, your team may include your medical oncologistsurgeon, radiation oncologistgeneticist, pathologist, nutritionist, pharmacist, interventional radiologist, social worker and researchers, all focused on you. This "meeting of the minds" provides critical input, resulting in an individualized care plan outlining the best course of action for each individual patient. 

Patients are at the center of this multidisciplinary team, and Kellogg staff arrange for them to be seen by their multidisciplinary team at one appointment, not only for their convenience but to provide a consensus on their course of treatment. Our use of one of the most advanced Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems in the country enhances our open communication and promotes collaboration in our patient care.

Additional Patient Support

Kellogg Cancer Center’s unique services and resources assist patients and family members with a variety of challenges they may face from diagnosis, treatment and beyond. A wide array of support services are available to patients that include our integrative medicine services, financial advocacy and survivorship, to name a few.

For More Information

For more information on head and neck symptoms and treatment or to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, please call 847.570.2112.