Head and neck cancer treatment
Head and neck cancer may be treated in different ways, depending on the type, location and stage of the cancer, your general health and what is important to you.
Learn more about:
- Making treatment decisions
- Preparing for treatment
- Radiation therapy
- Other drug therapies
- Palliative treatment
The key treatments for head and neck cancers are:
- surgery – removes cancer or repairs a part of the body affected by cancer; often used as the main treatment for head and neck cancer
- radiation therapy – the use of targeted radiation to kill or damage cancer cells; sometimes used as the main treatment for head and neck cancer
- chemotherapy – the use of drugs that kill cancer cells or slow their growth; usually combined with radiation therapy, which is known as chemoradiation.
You may have one of these treatments, or a combination. Some people with advanced head and neck cancer have drug therapies known as targeted therapy and immunotherapy. You may also be able to have new treatments through clinical trials.
Treatment will be tailored to your individual situation. For complex head and neck cancer, treatment options should be discussed at a meeting of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) in a specialised head and neck cancer centre.
There can be lots of extra costs during cancer treatment, even if you have private health insurance or you are having treatment as a public patient. Your health care providers should talk to you about how much you’ll pay for tests, treatments, medicines and hospital care. This is called informed financial consent.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; Dr Sophie Beaumont, Head of Dental Oncology, Dental Practitioner, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Bena Brown, Speech Pathologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Senior Research Fellow, Menzies School of Health Research, QLD; Dr Teresa Brown, Assistant Director, Nutrition and Dietetics, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Lisa Castle-Burns, Head and Neck Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, The Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Ben Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, GenesisCare Rockhampton and Brisbane, QLD; Elaine Cook, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Dr Andrew Foreman, Specialist Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Tony Houey, Consumer; Dr Annette Lim, Medical Oncologist and Clinician Researcher – Head and Neck and Non-melanoma Skin Cancer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The University of Melbourne, VIC; Paula Macleod, Head, Neck and Thyroid Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Dr Aoife McGarvey, Physiotherapist and Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner, Physio Living, Newcastle, NSW; Rick Pointon, Consumer; Teresa Simpson Senior Clinician, Psycho-Oncology Social Work Service, Cancer Therapy Centre, Liverpool Hospital, NSW.
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