Head and Neck Cancers

About Our Program

A diagnosis of cancer of the head and neck is overwhelming. You might be worried about your speech and ability to swallow or hear. We know that patients want to know how a diagnosis of cancer will affect them today, tomorrow, and how it will affect their day-to-day life. Meridian Cancer Care is here to provide the most complete and comprehensive care from screening to innovative surgery to advanced personalized treatment options. For our head and neck patients, we focus not only on the best possible treatment options, but on the overall quality of life for the patient with the least amount of impact on their bodies.

Expert Team

At Meridian, we believe the best way to treat you comes through the partnership and collaboration of our highly skilled multi-disciplinary team – and you. For head and neck cancers, your team may include the following:

Conditions of the Head and Neck

Head and neck cancer is the term given to cancers that start in the head and neck region. There are many different types of tissues in this area. These cancers can begin in any of these places:

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Voice Box or Larynx

The area of the throat that is involved with speaking (vocal cords or "voice box") and breathing.

Laryngeal Cancer and Hypopharyngeal Cancer
Cancer that starts in the larynx (voice box) is laryngeal cancer. Hypopharyngeal cancer develops in the hypopharynx, the bottom part of the throat. The hypopharynx is a hollow structure that move food and liquid from the throat into the esophagus and sits next to and behind the voice box.

More than 13,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with it annually and each year about 3,600 people die from it. The symptoms of laryngeal cancer depend on where the tumor is and its size. Tumors are most often found on the vocal cords. They are not usually painful, but they do cause changes in the voice. Other symptoms include:

  • Lump in the neck
  • Sore throat
  • Earache
  • Noisy breathing
  • A cough that does not go away
  • Feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Trouble swallowing

Laryngeal cancer may be treated in any of these ways:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Radiation therapy to shrink the tumor
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • A combination of these treatments

Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer

The area of the mouth that includes the lips, tongue, teeth, gums and cheek that plays an import role in speaking and eating. The area of the throat known as the oropharynx contains the tonsils and base (back) of tongue.

Oral cancer is cancer that starts in the mouth or throat. Oropharyngeal cancers usually involve the tonsils or the base of the tongue. The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a common cause of oropharyngeal cancers. Oral cancer is fairly common and very curable if found and treated at an early stage. A doctor or dentist usually finds oral cancer in its early stages because the mouth can be easily examined.

Tumors are most often found on the lips or inside of the mouth of the back of the throat. They may be associated with some pain and may cause difficulty when eating. Other symptoms include:

  • Lump in the neck
  • Sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Change in voice
  • Earache
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Bad breath

Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer may be treated in any of these ways:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Radiation therapy to shrink the tumor
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Nose Cancers

Cancers that affect the nose can be divided into two major areas. Cancers of the skin and cancers that affect the interior of the nose. Internal cancers can affect different sites including the nasal cavity, nasopharynx and paranasal sinuses.

Nasal Cavity
The passage behind the nose that air passes through it on its way to the throat during breathing. Cancers in this location may be associated with stuffy nose or nasal congestion, nose bleeds or symptoms of sinusitis. Cancers in this location are typically diagnosed by and ear, nose and throat doctor. Treatment may consist of surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy or a combination of the above.

Nasopharyngeal Cancer
Nasopharyngeal cancer starts in the nasopharynx, the upper part of the throat behind the nose and near the base (bottom) of skull. Cancers in this location may be associated with stuffy nose or nasal congestion, nose bleeds, hearing loss related to fluid in the ear, symptoms of sinusitis or a neck mass. Cancers in this location are typically diagnosed by and ear, nose and throat doctor. Treatment may consist of surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy or a combination of the above.

Paranasal Sinuses
The spaces around the nose, lined with cells that make mucus that keeps the nose from drying out. They are also a space that allows your voice to echo when you talk or sing. Cancers in this location may be associated with stuffy nose or nasal congestion, nose bleeds, facial numbness or symptoms of sinusitis. Cancers in this location are typically diagnosed by and ear, nose and throat doctor. Treatment may consist of surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy or a combination of the above.

Tumors are most often found on the skin of the nose or inside of the nose or the back of the nose. They may be associated with some pain and may cause difficulty when breathing through the nose. Other symptoms include:

  • Lump in the neck
  • Earache
  • Nose Bleeds
  • Stuffy nose
  • Unplanned weight loss
  • Bad breath

Nasal cavity and nasopharyngeal cancer may be treated in any of these ways:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Radiation therapy to shrink the tumor
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Salivary Glands

Salivary glands make saliva, which keeps food moist and helps dissolve food are located under the ear of under the tongue. Most tumors in the location are benign. Tumors in this location are typically diagnosed by and ear, nose and throat doctor.

Tumors are most often found under the ear, under the jaw bone or under the tongue. Most tumors are painless. However symptoms may include:

  • Facial weakness
  • Facial numbness
  • Earache
  • Neck pain with swallowing or eating

Salivary Gland tumors may be treated in any of these ways:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Radiation therapy to shrink the tumor
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Metastatic to the Neck
Head and neck cancer is the term given to cancers that start in the head and neck region. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type. When the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck and/ or other sites in the body it is considered metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. Treatment depends on the type of cancer you have, where it is, and its stage.

Tumors are most often found on the side of the neck. They may be associated with pain and swelling of the neck. Other symptoms include:

  • Earache
  • Unplanned weight loss

Sqaumous cell carcinoma metastatic to the neck may be treated in any of these ways:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor
  • Radiation therapy to shrink the tumor
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy

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Treatment

Meridian Cancer Care is on the leading-edge of advanced technology and is comprised of experts with experience and training in the most cutting-edge procedures from the most prestigious cancer programs in the world.

Surgery
All Meridian Health hospitals have been granted the American College of Surgeons (ACoS) Commission on Cancer accreditation with commendation for their cancer programs, an achievement earned by less than one-third of all cancer programs across the country.

Kenneth Newkirk M.D. is the Medical Director for the Head and Neck Oncology Surgery Program at Jersey Shore University Medical Center for Meridian Cancer Care's multidisciplinary team. Dr. Newkirk is a Board Certified Otolaryngologist, Head and Neck Surgeon, a Diplomat of the American Board of Otolaryngology, a Fellow of the American Head and Neck Society and the American College of Surgeons, as well as a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery. He is a graduate of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, NY and completed fellowships in Head and Neck Surgical Oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX and Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, DC.

Additional Radiation Services include:

  • ACRO-Accredited
  • Varian Linear Accelerators
  • 3D Conformal Therapy
  • Portal Vision Digital Imaging
  • Respiratory Gating
  • Mammosite
  • Fail-Safe Quality Assurance with Varis Record and Verify
  • Dedicated Full-Time Dosimetry and Physics Team
  • Oncology-Certified Nurses
  • Infusion Services

Medical Oncology
Our oncologists provide a multi-disciplinary approach to cancer treatment, with physicians in nearly every medical specialty offering personalized, patient-centered care. You have the choice of receiving treatment at offices in Manasquan, Jackson, Neptune, and Brick.

Clinical Trials
Meridian Cancer Care offers promising treatment options through affiliations with some of the nation's top cancer centers. As part of the Memorial Sloan Kettering – Hackensack Meridian partnership Meridian Cancer Care is offering Monmouth and Ocean counties' communities' excellent oncologic care backed by New Jersey's breakthrough cancer research and clinical findings. See a complete list of available clinical trials.

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Prevention and Wellness

When equipped with knowledge about your potential head or neck cancer risk, you can make informed decisions about prevention, early detection strategies, and available treatments. Meridian Cancer Care provides a range of services, community events, screenings, educational resources and state-of-the-art diagnostics to foster cancer prevention and early detection.

Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer Diagnosis
Oral cancer is often found during routine dental or medical exams. Your healthcare provider may check for signs of oral cancer during your regular exams. And you should tell your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms.

If your healthcare provider thinks you might have oral cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. Diagnosing oral cancer starts with your healthcare provider asking you questions. He or she will ask you about your health history, your symptoms, risk factors, and family history of disease. Your healthcare provider will also give you a physical exam. This involves looking at your head and neck and checking inside your mouth. He or she may also look at the back of your mouth and throat with small mirrors or with a thin, flexible, lighted tube. This tube is called a laryngoscope or a pharyngoscope.

He or she will look for problems such as:

  • Sores or red or white patches in your mouth
  • Unusual swelling in your gums or jaw
  • Pain or numbness in the mouth that doesn't go away
  • A lump inside your mouth or on your neck
  • Areas that bleed

Based on the results, your healthcare provider may decide you need a biopsy to look for cancer.

Identifying Risk

Risk factors for head and neck cancer include:

  • Using tobacco. Tobacco use is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancer. People who smoke or chew tobacco, dip snuff, or smoke pipes have a much higher chance of getting head and neck cancer than people who do not use tobacco. The risk is related to the intensity and how many years you have smoked.
  • Alcohol use. Drinking more than 1 drink a day increases your risk. If you drink heavily and smoke, your risk is many times higher.
  • Unhealthy diet. A diet that is low in some vitamins and minerals might increase your risk for head and neck cancer.
  • HPV Infection. Infection with certain types of HPV (human papillomavirus) increases your risk for some kinds of head and neck cancer. Exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus, the virus that causes mononucleosis, can play a role in causing nasopharyngeal cancer.
  • Sun exposure. Unprotected skin on the head and neck and the lips can develop skin cancer.
  • Age. People older than age 40 have an increased risk.
  • Race. African-Americans are more likely than whites to develop some types of head and neck cancer.
  • Weakened immune system. People whose immune system is suppressed, such as people who have had organ transplants, are at higher risk for some kinds of head and neck cancer.

Symptoms
Many people with head and neck cancer have symptoms such as these:

  • Growth or sore in the mouth
  • Lump in the neck
  • Lump or sore inside the nose that won't heal
  • Sore throat that does not go away
  • Feeling that something is stuck in the throat
  • Blocked sinuses or nasal congestion that won't clear
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Cough or hoarseness that does not go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or breathing
  • Frequent headaches or pain around the nose, cheeks, or forehead
  • Frequent nosebleeds or ones that don't stop
  • Weakness in the muscles of the face
  • Double vision

Many of these symptoms may be caused by other health problems. But it is important to see your healthcare provider if you have these symptoms. Only a healthcare provider can tell if you have cancer. It's common for people with these symptoms to be sent to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, called an otolaryngologist or a head and neck surgeon, to be checked.

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Helpful Resources

Meridian Cancer Care provides a range of services to foster cancer prevention and early detection from wellness programs and screenings to lectures and seminars from cancer experts. To learn more about upcoming events, call 1-800-560-9990 or visit our online event calendar.

Wellness Resources

    • Cancer Health Library

      Cancer Health Library

      With information on everything from nutrition to genetics, a wealth of information awaits patients, survivors and their families here.

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    • Take a Vacation from Cancer

      Take a Vacation from Cancer

      From time to time, you may benefit from taking a respite from your cancer diagnosis, even if you can't leave your illness completely behind.

      Learn More
    • Nutrition and Cancer Quiz

      Nutrition and Cancer Quiz

      What effect does diet have on your risk for cancer? Find out by taking this quiz, based in part on information from the American Cancer Society.

      Learn More

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