Head and Neck Cancer Surgery

man who had cancer surgery

Types of Head and Neck Cancers

Many different tissue types combine to form structures, glands and organs in the head and neck. Any of these can develop tumors, which can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).

Squamous cell cancers, which comprise 5% of all cancers, arise from the lining of the mucous membranes. The most common sites include the tongue, throat and larynx (voice box). Salivary gland tumors arise within the mucous- and saliva-producing glands, the largest of which are the parotid, submandibular and sublingual glands. They can also appear in the small minor salivary glands that permeate the mucous membranes in your nose, sinuses, mouth and throat. Tumors arising from the endocrine system can occur in the thyroid and parathyroid glands as well.

Any of these cancers can metastasize and spread to the lymph nodes in your neck. Malignancies called lymphomas can also arise from the white blood cells that make up the lymph nodes.

Risk Factors and Symptoms for Head/Neck Cancers

Risk factors for head and neck cancers include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Exposure to loud music
  • Radiation exposure
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection
  • Family history

Symptoms include:

  • A lump (mass) in the neck
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Cough
  • Recurrent nose bleeds
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty swallowing.

Workup and diagnosis of these tumors involve a thorough head and neck exam, imaging studies (ultrasound, CT, MRI) and, ultimately, a biopsy.


Treatment of the head and neck cancer centers on surgery, radiation therapy or a combination of the two. Increasingly, chemotherapy has become a supplementary option.

At Southwest Idaho ENT, we believe in the team approach in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancers. We work closely with radiation oncologists and medical oncologists to tailor treatment specifically to each individual. Our surgeons have a vast amount of experience in different surgical techniques. We enlist help from nutritionists, speech therapists, physical therapists and other health professionals to aid in the patients’ rehabilitation.

To learn more about SWIENT’s surgical services for head and neck cancer, contact us.