of head and neck cancers — usually defined as malignancies
above the collarbone but outside the brain — are on the
rise, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society
(ACS). The most common is thyroid cancer, with more than
62,000 cases annually.
head and neck cancers, including tumors of the mouth, tongue,
throat, vocal cords, and salivary glands, account for about 3
percent of all new cancer diagnosis in the U.S. This year,
more than 61,000 new cases will be diagnosed.
to the ACS, the primary causes of most head and neck cancers,
which are more common in men than women, are: alcohol and
tobacco use, and exposure to HPV, the same virus that
increases a woman’s risk of cervical cancer.
the past decade, we’ve seen an epidemic rise in cancers in
the back of the throat, specifically in the tonsils and the
base of the tongue — most which are related to HPV,"
says Dr. Geoffrey Young, a head and neck surgeon in the
Department of Otorhinolaryngology on Mayo Clinic’s Florida
growing number of cases, coupled with advancements in
technology and treatment options, has "created a new
paradigm in caring for these patients, as they usually require
multiple subspecialists coordinating care over weeks and
months," says Young.
streamline the care process, Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida
recently launched a Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer
Clinic, offering patients a single point of entry into Mayo
Clinic’s Cancer Center. The new clinic provides a
coordinated approach to specialty care, including surgical
oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, neuro-radiology
recent years, advances in minimally invasive robotic surgery,
mean patients suffering from throat cancers, in particular,
have more treatment options. "We now have the
opportunity, thanks to advances in robotic surgery and
minimally invasive techniques, to treat patients who
previously were not candidates for surgery," says Young.
addition, research has also led to advances in chemotherapy
value of the new multidisciplinary clinic, in addition to
convenience, says Dr. Young, is that patients have the
opportunity to learn about all the available treatment options
and make real-time decisions with the entire team of experts.
a single office visit, patients have a full analysis with all
of the providers. And at the end of the 45 minutes, they have
a comprehensive treatment plan individualized to them so they
can immediately begin treatment," explains Young.
head and neck cancers can be challenging, since many do not
have symptoms until they are in the later stages. As such,
Young recommends seeking out medical advice for any changes or
pain in the mouth, throat, or neck.
most common misconception is that these cancers cannot be
cured. With the right treatment, many patients can return to a
normal quality of life," says Young.