Jul 03, 2018 1:00 PM

three surgeons performing surgery
The head and neck surgical team performs one hundred or more complex head and neck reconstructions a year.

For tumors of the head and neck, surgery is often the first line of treatment. Head and neck surgical oncologists at Huntsman Cancer Institute perform the greatest number of highly complex procedures in the region for benign and malignant tumors occurring in the head and neck region:

  • Advanced skin cancers
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer
  • Parathyroid tumors
  • Pharyngeal cancer
  • Salivary gland cancer
  • Sarcomas
  • Thyroid tumors

Jason Hunt, MD, FACS, clinical director of the head and neck cancers program at HCI, says comprehensive care from an expert multidisciplinary team is crucial in decreasing complications and achieving the best possible outcomes in these patients.

The HCI head and neck surgical team has significant expertise in endocrine disorders, performing thyroidectomies and neck dissections to treat benign and malignant tumors of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.

There are four fellowship-trained head and neck surgical oncologists on the team. Three of the surgeons have expertise in complex microvascular head and neck cancer reconstructions. These procedures may be required after resection of tongue or other oral cavity tumors in order to achieve optimal outcomes for speech and swallowing. Also, one of the surgeons performs leading research looking into solutions for long-term problems patients may suffer after cancer treatment.

“We perform approximately one hundred or more of these complex head and neck reconstructions a year,” says Hunt. After reconstructive surgery, patients work extensively with speech and language pathologists at HCI.

Hunt says patients with rare tumors such as sarcomas and salivary gland cancers especially benefit from the team’s expertise.

“Sarcomas only make up about 2–3% of head and neck cancers, but we see these cancers much more frequently due to the fact that we’re a referral center,” he says. “Patients with these rare cancers really benefit from a multidisciplinary team that can provide the whole spectrum of care—from workup and evaluation through the possibility of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.”

Hunt says the comprehensive care available at HCI allows for optimal outcomes. “Our multidisciplinary team includes not only surgeons, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists, but also speech and language therapists, social workers, dietitians, and other care providers,” he says. “It’s not just about curing the cancer, but also about achieving the best function for the patient.”

head and neck cancer thyroid cancer sarcoma cancer care

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