Head and Neck Cancer Program
The Head and Neck Cancer Program at Broward Health is committed to providing top-notch comprehensive care for patients with benign or malignant tumors of the head and neck.
Head and neck tumors can significantly impact daily life, affecting speech, swallowing, and our everyday social interactions. Treating the cancer effectively requires balancing innovative, state-of-the-art treatments and prioritizing functional outcomes to optimize quality of life during and after treatment.
We are dedicated to providing our patients with the most innovative and effective treatment options available. Surgery is performed with a minimally-invasive approach when possible, including advanced techniques such as TransOral Robotic Surgery and endoscopic surgery. We also offer advanced radiation techniques, the latest in chemotherapy and immunotherapy options, and access to clinical trials.
In order to achieve these results, we take a multidisciplinary team approach to treating head and neck cancer. Our multidisciplinary approach involves consultations with expert physician specialists as well as our rehabilitation and support teams. This collaborative method results in thorough and well-rounded care for our patients and their loved ones during treatment and into survivorship.
Head and Neck Surgery is a surgical subspecialty devoted to treatment of these benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck. These conditions are highly-complex, which requires a surgeon with specialized training and experience to appropriately treat them.
This includes the:
- Thyroid gland
- Parathyroid glands
- Mouth and Lips
- Oral Cavity
- Throat (Pharynx)
- Voice box (Larynx)
- Salivary glands
- Nose and paranasal sinuses
- Soft tissue tumors (sarcoma)
Common conditions treated:
- Neck masses
- HPV-related tumors of the tonsil and base of tongue
- Masses or lesions in the mouth or on the tongue
- Oral cancer
- Tongue cancer
- Oropharyngeal cancer
- Unknown primary cancer
- Melanoma and advanced squamous cell carcinomas on the head, neck, and scalp
- Thyroid cancer
- Thyroid nodules or goiter
- Hypercalcemia and parathyroid disease
- Laryngeal cancer
- Difficulty swallowing
- Changes in voice
- Salivary gland tumors
- Soft tissue tumors of the head and neck
What are some signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer?
Early detection of head and neck cancers, like most cancers, gives the patient the highest chance of a cure. The following is a partial list of symptoms that may mean a cancer of the head and neck is present:
- A lump or swelling in the neck
- Change in the voice, or progressively hoarse voice
- A growth or sore in the mouth, either painless or painful
- Swallowing problems or frequent coughing or choking with swallowing
- Abnormal skin growths or moles
- Persistent earache
What are Head and Neck Cancers?
- The term “head and neck cancers” includes a diverse group of tumors from areas of the upper aerodigestive tract, glands, and skin in the head and neck area.
- Most cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract are squamous cell carcinomas. These can begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the mouth, nose, and throat.
- The thyroid gland, salivary glands, and parathyroid glands are also very common sites of head and neck tumors.
- Finally, cancers of the skin (such as melanoma), muscle and bone arising in the head and neck are also included in this term.
What causes cancers of the head and neck and how to reduce the risk?
Many head and neck cances are caused by tobacco use, either smoked or chewed. This risk is increased when combined with alcohol use. These risk factors are particularly important for cancers of the mouth, oropharynx (back of the mouth and throat), hypopharynx (lower throat, below the back of the tongue) and larynx (voice box).
Another risk factor is a high-risk strain of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is the common cause of oropharyngeal (throat) cancer that involves the tonsils or the base of the tongue. In the United States, the incidence of oropharyngeal cancers caused by HPV is increasing to epidemic proportions.
Skin cancers in the head and neck area are most commonly caused by history of UV exposure from the sun. For example, patients who have had severe sunburns or spend several hours in the sun regularly are at higher risk for certain skin cancers such as melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Increased risk for thyroid cancer has traditionally been associated with head and neck radiation and family history of thyroid problems. However, many patients who develop thyroid cancers today do not have these traditional risk factors.
People who are at risk of head and neck cancers―particularly those who use tobacco―should talk with their doctor about ways that they may be able to reduce their risk. They should also discuss with their doctor how often to have head and neck screening exams.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved two vaccines to prevent HPV (Human Papilloma Virus, the virus causing warts) infection: Gardasil® and Cervarix®. Both vaccines are highly effective in preventing infections with HPV types 16 and 18. HPV type 16 is an increasing cause of oropharyngeal cancer.
The American Head and Neck Society consensus statement on HPV-vaccination: https://www.ahns.info/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Signed-Joint-position-statement-HPV.pdf
What follow up care is necessary?
Rehabilitation is a crucial part of head and neck cancer treatment. Head and neck cancers can impact daily functions that we would otherwise take for granted, such as breathing, talking, swallowing, and appearance.
During and after treatment, the head and neck cancer team at Broward Health is focused on providing rehabilitation services for patients to address physical as well as psychosocial needs. The goals of rehabilitation are tailored for each patient. They depend on the extent of the disease and the treatment that a patient has received.
We make sure our patients receive full rehabilitation support to help them return to normal activities as soon as possible. These include swallowing therapy, lymphedema therapy, nutritional services, occupational and physical therapy, social work, palliative services, speech therapy, and/or reconstructive surgery.
Comprehensive follow-up care is very important during and after treatment for head and neck cancer. Imaging studies may be obtained once treatment is complete.
Regular, structured follow up visits with our providers are necessary for cancer surveillance. The frequency of these follow-ups is based on national cancer guidelines to make sure that the cancer has not returned.
Approach to care.
Treatment for any tumor, benign or malignant, of the head and neck may have a significant impact on a person’s ability to speak, breath, swallow, and communicate. Recognizing this connection, head and neck cancer team at Broward Health rely on a collaborative multidisciplinary team-based approach to treatment.
Our providers provide innovative treatments including minimally-invasive surgical techniques and robotic surgery, new radiation treatment approaches, and targeted and immune-based therapies that help your body fight the cancer.
At Broward Health, surgical care utilizes the most advanced and innovative methods for head and neck cancer treatment. Head and neck surgery is performed with a minimally-invasive approach where possible, including the use of robotic and endoscopic surgery.
Our patients also benefit from the expertise of our radiation therapists, medical oncologists, and rehabilitation services, who offer the best chance of a cure with the least damaging effects on vital functions such as speaking and swallowing.
Head and Neck Cancer Program Director
Dr. Ryan H. Sobel is a head and neck surgeon and Director of the Head and Neck Cancer program at Broward Health. Dr. Sobel is fellowship-trained in head and neck surgical oncology and treating these disorders is the focus of his practice. He has extensive experience in minimally-invasive surgical approaches for head and neck conditions, including TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) and endoscopic surgery.
Dr. Sobel works with a multidisciplinary team of head and neck cancer specialists. At Broward Health, the multidisciplinary head and neck cancer team will discuss treatment options with the patient and his or her support system. Each type of treatment will be discussed in depth, including how it might change the way the patient looks, talks, eats, or breathes. We believe that education is key and allows patients to make the most informed decisions about their care.
Ryan Sobel, MD
Director of the Head and Neck Cancer Program