Head & Neck Cancers | Miami Cancer Institute | Baptist Health South Florida
Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content https://bapth.lt/2pS4mNl
Miami Cancer Institute esophageal cancer patient with wife on beach

 Head & Neck Cancers

Treating cancers that occur in the head and neck requires expertise to achieve the best possible outcome. Miami Cancer Institute’s diverse team of medical oncologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, neuro-radiologists, dental oncologists and plastic surgeons collaborate to design your customized treatment plan, incorporating the most advanced therapies that have the least impact on your quality of life.

About Head and Neck Cancers

Fewer than 5 percent of adult cancers occur in the head or neck. Most of these cancers are squamous cell carcinomas — malignant growths that begin in the flat squamous cells that form the inner lining in many parts of the head and neck.

Some of the most common cancers affecting the head and neck include:

Head and Neck Cancer Risk Factors

Using tobacco, which includes smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes, chewing tobacco and using snuff, is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancer. About 85 percent of head and neck cancer cases are linked to tobacco use.

Other factors that can raise your risk of developing head and neck cancer include:

  • Heavy alcohol use 
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) 
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Male gender
  • Over age 40
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • African-American
  • Exposure to asbestos and environmental or occupational inhalants
  • Diet low in vitamins A and B
  • Marijuana use
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD)
  • Weakened immune system

Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancers

Some of the most common symptoms of head and neck cancer are listed below. Sometimes, people with this cancer type do not show any symptoms. However, if you are concerned about symptoms on this list, talk to your doctor. When patients respond to unusual signs by seeking early medical evaluation, their outcome is dramatically improved.

  • Chronic sore throat
  • White or red patch in the mouth
  • Ear or jaw pain
  • Lump in the head or neck area
  • Swallowing problems
  • Change in voice or hoarseness
  • Speech difficulties
  • Nosebleeds
  • Chronic congestion or sinus infection
  • Pain or unusual bleeding from the mouth
  • Hearing problems
  • Double vision
  • Loose teeth
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue

Diagnostic tests, including biopsies and radiological imaging, are used by Miami Cancer Institute’s physicians to make decisions about your course of treatment. The combined expertise of our pathologists, radiologists and other experienced specialists result in precise diagnosis.

Depending on the type of cancer suspected, some of the most common tests are: (Link tests to Diagnostic Tests in Treatments & Services)

  • Physical exam, to check for lumps or abnormalities.
  • Review of personal medical history, lifestyle factors and family history.
  • Laboratory tests, including blood and urine tests.
  • Imaging studies, such as CT, MRI and PET scans, bone scan, X-ray and ultrasound, to look at specific areas of the head and neck.
  • Endoscopy, using a thin tube inserted through your nose or mouth to view areas of the head and neck.
  • Esophagoscopy and bronchoscopy, using a thin, lighted tube inserted down the throat to view the esophagus, trachea and lungs.
  • Biopsy, to examine suspicious tissue.

Treatment for head and neck cancer at Miami Cancer Institute is centered around surgical and advanced radiation therapy techniques to eliminate the disease, minimize adverse side effects, promote faster healing and achieve higher cure rates. The newest technologies focus on organ preservation and voice restoration, even for advanced tumors.

The precise nature of proton therapy makes it an excellent option for the treatment of certain head and neck cancers. Proton therapy delivers highly effective doses of radiation directly into the tumor, decreasing the risk of damage to delicate tissue in the head and neck.

The following treatments also may be part of your treatment plan:  

  • Surgery, to remove the tumor and restore your appearance and health. 
  • Radiation therapy, to target and destroy the tumor with high doses of radiation.
  • Chemotherapy, to destroy tumor cells and stop their ability to grow and divide.
  • Hyperthermia treatment, using high heat to kill cancer cells.
  • Biological, targeted and gene therapy, using bacteria, vaccines, drugs or other methods to stimulate your immune system and/or kill or damage cancer cells.
  • Clinical trials, which provide the opportunity to try innovative treatments. Talk to your doctor to discuss the possible options.

An important part of cancer care is relieving your symptoms and side effects. Our Cancer Patient Support Center team focuses on improving your quality of life and supporting you and your family. ​