Head and Neck Cancer (Oncology) Surgery, Treatments, Types | Narayana Health
Head & Neck Surgery - Oncology

Head & Neck Surgery - Oncology

The Department of Head and Neck Oncology at Narayana Health offers treatment of Diseases and Tumours related to the Head and Neck.

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Head & Neck Surgery - Oncology

A group of cancers that begins in or around the throat, voice box, nose, sinuses, or the mouth is called head and neck cancer. This type of cancer is believed to start in the cells in the exteriors of these body parts. Head and neck cancers can further be categorised into five types; oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses and salivary glands.

- Oral cavity

Cancer that affects the lips and insides of the mouth falls under this category. Certain parts affected include gums, hard palate, cheek insides, and tongue.

- Pharynx

Cancers affecting your throat, tongue, tonsils and soft palate fall under this category. Some of the symptoms to watch out for include painful swallowing, earaches, trouble breathing, talking and hearing.

- Larynx

Larynx cancer affects your vocal cords and epiglottis. The signs and symptoms of larynx cancer are very similar to pharynx cancer symptoms.

- Nasal cavity and paranasal; sinuses

Cancer cells form in the paranasal sinus and nasal cavity tissues. Warning signs of this cancer type include nosebleeds, headaches, sinus infections, swelling around the eyes, and pain in your teeth.

- Salivary glands

Salivary glands cancer is a rare type of cancer that can begin in any of your salivary glands. The symptoms of this cancer include swelling under and around chin and jawbone, numb muscles, lump, sores in the mouth, difficulty in swallowing, and blood in your spit. The treatment options for salivary gland tumours or cancers include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Our hospitals have a team of globally recognized surgical oncologists, ENT, otolaryngologists, audiologists as well as pain and palliative specialists for Head and Neck Cancer. We emphasise on organ preservation and restoration of form, function by reconstructive surgery, radiation treatment and rehabilitation.

    Thyroid Clinic - For Personalised Thyroid Care Under One Roof

    The Thyroid Clinic at Mazumdar Shaw Cancer Centre in NH Health City offers 'Same day Thyroid Care' to patients who might have a thyroid related abnormality and could later be diagnosed with cancer.

    Key Features of the Clinic:

    • Same day consultation with Head & Neck Onco Surgeons, Endocrinologists, Radiologists, Pathologists, and Nuclear Physicians.
    • Faster decision on the treatment plan with a multidisciplinary discussion.
    • Detailed Neck Ultrasonography and Ultrasound-Guided Thyroid Nodule Biopsy.
    • Experienced Pathologists to interpret the Cytology.
    • Meticulous pre-surgery lymph node mapping.
    • A well-equipped Iodine Whole Body Scan and FDG-PET Scan.


    A surgical oncologist may start the diagnosis of any head and neck cancer by evaluating the patient’s medical history and then conducting a physical examination and ordering other diagnostic tests.

    • For a physical examination, the doctor may visually inspect the oral and nasal cavities, throat, neck and tongue. Small mirrors and lights are used to check for the presence of any lumps in and around the lips, gums, cheeks and neck.
    • Endoscopic procedures may be followed to examine the areas inside the body with the help of a flexible tube called an endoscope.
    • The samples of blood, urine or cells from the nodes are sent to the laboratory for other tests.
    • For obtaining the images of the head and neck areas, X-rays, CT scan, PET scan and MRI can be used.
    • A biopsy is the only sure procedure in head and neck oncology to determine whether a person has cancer or not. Here, a small part of the tissue is removed and examined under a microscope to make a diagnosis.


    Every cancer patient is different. Therefore, a special team of surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, onco-pathologists, radiation oncologists and imaging specialists evaluate the condition of the patient and chart out a customized treatment plan for them. Some of the modalities of head and neck cancer treatments available are mentioned below.

    • Surgery: In head and neck surgery, the cancer is removed along with some of the healthy tissues around it. Radiation treatment may be given after the surgery.
    • Radiation: Different types of radiation therapy may be suggested for the patients, such as 3DCRT, IMRT or IGRT.
    • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is usually given along with radiation therapy. The anti-cancer drugs used can kill the fast-growing cells in the body.
    • Targeted therapy: Unlike chemotherapy, the drugs used in targeted therapy selectively kill cancer cells. However, its application in the treatment of head and neck cancer is limited.
    • Rehabilitation: Rehabilitation programs are doctor-supervised programs for patients who underwent treatment for cancer. It helps them to get back to their daily activities quicker as well as improves their well-being.

    Head & Neck Surgery - Oncology FAQs

What are the symptoms of cancer in the head and neck?

Head and neck cancer constitutes of tumours that form in several places of the head and neck, including the mouth, throat, nose, thyroid, sinuses, etc. Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling in the neck
  • Persistent pain in the neck, throat or ears
  • A non-healing ulcer in the mouth
  • Blood in the sputum
  • A red or white patch in the mouth that doesn’t go away
  • Persistent hoarseness in the voice
  • Loosening of teeth
  • Numbness in the tongue or other areas
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the jaws or tongue
  • Frequent nosebleeds, nasal congestion or chronic sinus infections that don’t go away with treatment

How is head and neck cancer diagnosed?

There are many tests to identify or diagnose cancer. Initially, a biopsy is conducted to test a tiny sample of tissue to learn if an area of the body has cancer. If the patient has symptoms of head and neck cancer, the doctor will take a complete medical history and may order the following tests.

  • Physical examination: The doctor will check for any lumps formed on the neck, lips, gums and cheeks and also examine the nose, mouth, throat and tongue for abnormalities.
  • Endoscopy: A thin flexible tube with a light is used to allow the doctor to take a look in the inner body. Depending on the part of the body that is examined, endoscopy can be of different types, such as laryngoscopy to see the larynx, nasopharyngoscopy to see the nasopharynx, etc.
  • Molecular testing of the tumour: This helps the doctor to analyse a tumour sample for the presence of specific genes, proteins and factors unique to the tumour.
  • X-ray/ barium swallows: X-rays use a small amount of radiation to obtain a picture of the structures inside the body. Barium swallow shows the abnormalities that may be present along the swallowing passage.
  • Panoramic radiograph: This test presents a rotating, panoramic x-ray of the upper and lower jawbones and helps to evaluate the teeth before radiation or chemotherapy.
  • Ultrasound: Soundwaves are used to obtain a picture of the internal organs. Ultrasound test works well to evaluate thyroid carcinoma.

Other diagnostic tests include CT scan, MRI scan and PET scan.

What are the surgery options for head and neck surgery?

The surgery for head and neck cancer is aimed at removing the cancerous tumour and are of the following types.

  • Laser technology: This is used to treat a tumour that is in its early stages, especially in the larynx.
  • Excision: This is performed to remove the cancerous tumour along with a small part of the surrounding healthy tissue, called margin.
  • Lymph node dissection or neck dissection: The doctor may remove lymph nodes in the neck if it is suspected that the cancer has spread.
  • Reconstructive surgery: Sometimes, cancer surgery includes major tissue removal from the body, such as removing the jaw, skin, pharynx or tongue. Reconstructive surgery is done to replace the missing tissue and help the individual to restore the appearance and functionality of the operated area.

Some people have to undergo more than one operation depending on the location, stage and type of cancer. Sometimes, complete removal of the tumour may not be possible and additional treatments may be necessary, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy or both.