A sore throat that doesn’t go away could be a symptom of head and neck cancer.

Head and neck cancers include:

  • Oral cancer, also called mouth cancer or pharyngeal cancer
  • Salivary gland cancer
  • Sinus and nasal cavity cancer
  • Throat cancer

Other possible signs of cancers in these areas of your body include:

  • A lump
  • A sore that won’t heal
  • Problems with swallowing
  • A hoarse voice, or other changes to your voice

Many of these cancers are preventable.

About 85 percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use.

The cause of these cancers is not known, but research has shown that using tobacco increases the risk of head and neck cancer. Also, men are twice as likely as women to get one of these cancers.

A risk factor is anything that increases your risk of getting a disease. So using tobacco is a risk factor for head and neck cancer, and so is being a man.

Other risk factors for head and neck cancer include:

  • Abusing alcohol
  • Being over age 55
  • Previous human papillomavirus, or HPV, infection
Treatment for head and neck cancer usually includes surgery, often combined with other therapies.

Treatment for your particular type of head and neck cancer will depend on the type of cancer, your age, your health, and other factors your doctor will discuss with you.

In general, many head and neck cancer treatment plans will include surgery to remove cancerous tissue, followed by drugs or radiation therapy to kill any cancer cells that are still in your body.

We are active in our use of new therapies through clinical trials.

Clinical trials are research studies that test the latest treatments and drugs that are not yet available to the public. These new treatments have the potential to improve your quality of life or increase your chances of survival.

For example, one of our studies involves an investigational drug to see if it can reduce mouth pain and ulcers that can be a side effect of mouth cancer treatments.

Another one of our clinical trials is exploring the use of electrical nerve stimulation in combination with current treatments to reduce pain and improve function for patients who are getting chemotherapy and radiation therapy for head and neck cancer.

The head and neck cancer specialists at Holden care for more than 350 patients every year.

To make sure you get the best care possible, we bring together experts from different fields of medicine to work together as a team that provides your care. The team includes head and neck surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, genetic counselors, social workers, imaging specialists, pathologists, pharmacists, nurses, laboratory-based scientists, and our survivorship team. They meet regularly to discuss the best course of treatment, and together they design the best personalized plan for you.

Holden offers you:

  • Experts focused only on head and neck cancers: They understand the disease and know about the most recent treatment options.
  • Many surgical options: Our surgeons use advanced techniques, such as trans-oral robotic surgery (TORS) to remove throat tumors. TORS offers shorter stays in the hospital, faster recovery, and fewer complications compared to standard surgery.
  • One stop for all surgery: Our surgeons are trained in reconstruction, so they remove tumors and offer reconstructive plastic surgery to help you get back to your normal self.
  • Quality of life expertise: You may have side effects from treatments that can change the quality of your life, from how you eat and drink to how you speak to how you kiss a loved one. We work with you after treatment to help you overcome these challenges.

Cancer Care Clinics

University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics

200 Hawkins Drive
Iowa City, Iowa 52242

Clinical Cancer Center

21602 Pomerantz Family Pavilion (PFP)
Elevator M, Level 1
Phone: 1-319-356-4200

Cancer Services-Quad Cities

1351 Kimberly Road
Suite 100
Bettendorf, Iowa 52722

University of Iowa Health Care Cancer Services-Quad Cities

Phone: 1-563-355-7733