Head & Neck Oncology
Pacific Specialists has some of the top oncology doctors in the country. We offer a range of oncology services including:
Cancer of the Nose and Sinuses
The nasal cavity and surrounding sinuses assist in maintaining the functionality and structure of the head and neck area, and are essential in our everyday lives. Lined with a layer of mucous tissue, these structures are susceptible to the abnormal cell development that can lead to cancerous tumor formation.
Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers tend to develop most often in patients who smoke, have a family history of cancer, or are frequently exposed to dust, flour, radium and other substances as part of their job. Patients with this type of cancer often experience:
- Nasal Decongestion, Decreased sense of smell
- Facial pain, Watery eyes, Post-nasal drip
- Vision loss, Nosebleeds
If cancer is suspected, your doctor will perform a series of tests, such as endoscopy, CT scan or biopsy to diagnose and stage your condition. Treatment for cancer of the nose or sinuses usually involves surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue, which may be performed in conjunction with chemotherapy or radiation therapy to ensure complete removal. The location of each patient’s tumor is essential in determining whether or not surgery is possible.
Cancer of the Mouth and Throat Treatment
Cancer of the mouth and throat refers to the development of a cancerous tumor within the lips, cheeks, salivary glands, gums, teeth, tongue, tonsils or nearly any other area within these structures. Oral (mouth) and pharyngeal (throat) cancers most commonly affect patients over the age of 40 who smoke or chew tobacco. Excessive alcohol consumption, a family history of head and neck cancer, and exposure to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) may also increase a patient’s risk for mouth and throat cancer. Symptoms of oral and throat cancers can vary depending on the type and location of the cancer, but may include white patches in the mouth, a sore on the lips, bleeding, loose teeth, difficulty swallowing, earache and more.
In order to determine which type of treatment is most appropriate for each patient’s individual condition, your doctor will first determine the stage of the cancer through a series of diagnostic exams performed in our Santa Monica office. A customized treatment plan is then developed, which may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of these approaches. Surgery for mouth and throat cancer involves a removal of the tumor and a small margin of surrounding tissue to ensure that all cancerous cells have been successfully eliminated.
Cancer of the Larynx Treatment
The larynx, also known as the voice box, is located in the front of the neck and helps us breathe, swallow and speak, as it controls the opening and closing of the windpipe. Like nearly any other cells in the body, abnormalities within the larynx can lead to the development of a cancerous tumor, which most often develops within the squamous cells that line the inner walls of the larynx.
Patients with laryngeal cancer may experience hoarseness, a lump in the neck, a cough, difficulty breathing, earache, difficulty swallowing and weight loss, among other symptoms. While the exact cause of laryngeal cancer is unknown, certain people may be at an increased risk of developing this condition, including those who:
- Over the age of 55
- Consume large amounts of alcohol
- Are male
- Have a personal or family history of head and neck cancer
- Are African American
- Have been exposed to HPV
Surgical treatment for laryngeal cancer may involve endoscopic removal of tumors through the mouth using either laser or microscopic techniques, or removal of part or all of the larynx through open procedures such as a partial or total laryngectomy. If the cancer has spread from the larynx, the lymph nodes or other nearby structures may be removed as well. Radiation and chemotherapy are also commonly performed to treat laryngeal tumors, and may be used alone or in combination with surgery. A personalized, multidisciplinary treatment will be developed based on a thorough evaluation of each patient’s individual condition performed in our Los Angeles area office.
Parotid and Submandibular Gland Tumors
The parotid and submandibular glands make up two of the three major salivary glands in the body that secrete saliva near the upper teeth and under the tongue, and help aid in digestion, oral lubrication and hygiene, and protection against tooth decay. These glands are susceptible to benign or malignant tumors that appear as a lump in front of or below the ear. Parotid and submandibular gland tumors can spread from other areas of the body to enter the gland through the lymphatic system, and may include lymphomas, melanoma or squamous cell carcinoma, among others. Forunately, there are several surgical procedures that can be performed to remove these tumors in our fully-accredited Los Angeles area outpatient surgery center.
Treatment of parotid gland tumors may require surgical removal of the gland. This procedure, known as parotidectomy, is performed under general anesthesia and may require a short hospital stay as well. Depending on the size of the tumor, a partial or total parotidectomy may be performed. During a parotidectomy, an incision is made in front of the ear, similar to the incision used during a facelift. The tumor and a small margin of surrounding tissue are removed through the incision. After the parotidectomy procedure, a drainage tube will be placed at the incision site to collect blood, serum and saliva, which can usually be removed after one day.
Facial Nerve Monitoring
During a parotidectomy, it is important to identify the facial nerve and carefully work around it in order to reduce the risk of damage, which can result in facial paralysis or other serious complications. Facial nerve monitoring confirms the position of the nerve throughout surgery and verifies its integrity at the completion of the procedure. This provides peace of mind to both patient and surgeon, ensuring that the procedure goes smoothly and reducing the chance of post-operative complications.
Submandibular Gland Excision
Surgical removal of the submandibular gland may be necessary to provide relief from tumors or chronic infection. Submandibular gland excision is performed under general anesthesia, and patients usually return home the same day. During the excision procedure, an incision is made in the neck, right under the jawbone. The entire gland is then removed from the surrounding muscles, vessels and nerves. After the submandibular gland excision procedure, a drainage tube may be placed at the site of the incision, which can then be removed the next day.
Facial Skin Cancer Treatment
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and involves abnormal growths of skin cells that can form anywhere on the body, but most frequently appear on skin that is exposed to the sun, such as the face. There are three major types of skin cancer that affect the associated layers of the skin. Squamous cell carcinoma affects the squamous cells, which are just below the outer surface of the skin and serve as the inner lining. Basal cell carcinoma affects the basal cells, which lay under the squamous cells and produce new skin cells. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and affects the melanocytes, which produce melanin.
Medical attention is necessary after noticing any changes to the skin, as early detection is valuable in successfully treating skin cancer. Regular full body screening is recommended as well. A biopsy is usually performed to accurately diagnose suspected cancerous growths. If not treated properly, skin cancer can spread to other areas of the body.
Tumors of the Ear and Temporal Bone Treatment
The temporal bone is a portion of the skull located above the ear. Tumors may develop within the ear or temporal bone, often originating as skin cancer caused by years of sun exposure, or may form within the ear canal. Basal skin carcinoma and squamous cell cancer are the most common types of ear and temporal bone tumors.
Ear tumors are white bumps that appear on the outside of the ear, which can spread to the temporal bone if left untreated. Patients with ear or temporal bone tumors typically experience ear pain and discharge from the ear canal. If the tumor spreads to the temporal bone, it can also cause hearing loss, dizziness and facial paralysis. A biopsy of ear and/or temporal bone tumors is taken to determine whether or not they are cancerous. If cancer is detected, the tumor(s) must be surgically removed to keep it from spreading, and a customized treatment plan will be devised to prevent recurrence.
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