Stages & Treatment

The earlier your head and neck cancer is diagnosed, the more likely the treatment will be successful. At UI Health, our team of head and neck doctors is dedicated to finding the best treatment for you and providing the best outcomes.

Chicago’s Only Robot-Assisted Surgery Option

Our ear, nose, and throat cancer surgeons are unique in the Chicago area for their ability to offer robot-assisted surgery. If it is possible to treat your cancer with this minimally invasive procedure, your recovery will be faster.

If your surgery may cause a significant loss of tissue that would impair your eating, breathing, or other functions, our surgeons are experts in providing microvascular surgical reconstruction at the same time of removing your cancer.

Stage by Stage

Head and neck cancer treatment is not one-size-fits-all. We plan your treatment based on the stage of the cancer, the location of the tumor, and your personal medical factors.

STAGE I: Surgery or radiation therapy

STAGE II: In this stage, where cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, therapy depends upon the location of the tumor, and may include surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy, or a combined approach.

STAGE III AND IV: A combined radiation therapy and chemotherapy approach typically is the first line of treatment. In other cases, surgery is performed first, followed by chemoradiation.

Surgical Options

Head and neck surgeries usually comprise two parts — removal (resection) of the tumor and reconstruction of the defect. 

Radiation Treatment

Radiation helps to kill tumors and control tumor growth by damaging the cancer cells. This also reduces cancer cells’ ability to multiply.

We offer the following radiation treatment options:

  • Brachytherapy
  • Conformal radiation therapy (CRT)
  • Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT)
  • Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT)

When you have radiation treatment, it may damage the healthy cells near the tumor; however, healthy cells will repair themselves as you recover.

Medical Treatment (Chemotherapy)

Depending on the stage and type of your cancer, you may need medical treatment called chemotherapy. Chemotherapy kills the abnormal cancer cells so that healthy cells can continue to live. You may receive chemotherapy in the hospital or at the Outpatient Care Center.

Your medical oncologist will help you manage your cancer and determine the correct treatment option. In addition to treating your cancer, they will attend to your other needs, including management of symptoms caused by medical treatment and assistance in becoming involved in clinical trials