Surgery: Surgery is the first treatment for most head and neck cancers; advanced techniques allow surgeons to extract many tumours without causing damage to sensory structures. Now it is possible to remove lymph nodes while sparing nerves vital for shoulder function. Surgery to remove tumours at the base of the skull was nearly impossible till recently. Reconstruction of bones, etc. can now be possible immediately after surgery.
Minimally Invasive Procedures: Image-guided procedures are often used to remove tumours near sensitive areas. Endoscopic laser surgery can extract tumours from the larynx, pharynx and thyroid while preserving nerves involved in speech. Tumours of the tongue or tonsils can be removed with robotics arms placed in the mouth.
Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy may be used after surgery, often with chemotherapy in curative treatment plans. Different types of radiation therapy can be particularly useful for patients not eligible for surgery or with significant side effects post surgery.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is increasingly used, along side radiation therapy, to kill tumours difficult to reach surgically. Chemotherapy has been seen to enhance the efficacy of radiation and patient outcomes. If the cancer is incurable, chemotherapy serves to increase survival and decrease symptoms.