Our Treatment Approach
MD Anderson has led the way to new methods to treat throat cancer. We tailor your care to include advanced therapies that give you the highest chance for successful treatment while keeping the ability to eat, speak and live a normal, healthy life.
Innovative treatments include minimally invasive surgical techniques, new radiation treatment approaches and targeted therapies that help your body fight the cancer.
Because throat cancer and its treatment often affect breathing, hearing, talking and appearance, we make sure every patient receives full rehabilitation support, including occupational, physical and speech therapy, and/or reconstructive surgery. Dental experts design and place highly specialized implants. Surgeons and oncologists work closely with experts in Speech Pathology and Audiology who have special expertise in restoring speech and swallowing after throat surgery.
Throat Cancer Treatments
Depending on the type of cancer and how far it has spread, you may be treated with one or a combination of therapies.
Our skilled surgeons are experts at performing surgery for patients with throat cancer. Revolutionary new technologies in robotics and laser surgery have ushered in a new era of surgery for throat cancer. Our surgeons have the most advanced equipment and technology to perform advanced surgeries such as the following:
Minimally invasive or endoscopic surgery: This new technique allows surgeons to remove whole tumors through the mouth, without incisions and little or no change in speech and swallowing function.
Transoral Laser Microsurgery (TLM): A flexible, hollow-core fiber transmits CO2 laser energy, enabling surgeons to reach otherwise unreachable areas and to perform a 360-degree resection around tumors in ways that were previously not possible.
Transoral Robotic Surgery (TORS): Robotic-assisted surgery offers the advantages of computer technology, specialized surgical instruments and advanced three-dimensional imaging. At MD Anderson, the da Vinci® Surgical System is the latest addition to our surgical tools for head and neck cancer.
Supracricoid Partial Laryngectomy: The supraglottis, vocal cords and thyroid cartilage are removed, while other structures that are needed to swallow and produce speech are spared.
Chemotherapy may be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or kill lingering cancer cells after surgery and/or radiation treatment. A combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used as a primary treatment for patients with larger tumors or those who cannot tolerate surgery.
MD Anderson offers the most advanced chemotherapy combination regimens, with the least impact on the body.
New radiation therapy techniques, such as intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and proton therapy, and remarkable skill allow MD Anderson doctors to target throat cancer tumors more precisely, delivering the maximum amount of radiation with the least damage to healthy cells.
Radiation treatments include:
- Brachytherapy: Tiny radioactive seeds are placed in the body close to the tumor
- 3D-conformal radiation therapy: Several radiation beams are given in the exact shape of the tumor
- Intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT): Treatment is tailored to the specific shape of the tumor
The Proton Therapy Center at MD Anderson offers the most advanced form of radiation treatment available in the Southwest. It’s the only proton therapy facility in the country located within a comprehensive cancer center. This means that this cutting-edge therapy is backed by all the expertise and compassionate care for which MD Anderson is famous.
Proton therapy delivers high radiation doses directly to the tumor site, with limited, if any, damage to nearby healthy tissue. This pencil-beam technology pioneered by the cancer experts at MD Anderson’s Proton Therapy Center – and available at only a few other centers worldwide – is an important tool for fighting certain head and neck cancers. For some patients, this therapy results in better cancer control with fewer side effects.
Doctors at the Proton Therapy Center work closely with the skilled specialists in the Head and Neck Center to provide comprehensive care for patients who have benign (non-cancer) or malignant (cancer) head and neck tumors.
MD Anderson is among the few cancer centers in the nation that are able to offer patients targeted therapies for some types of throat cancer. These innovative new drugs stop the growth of cancer cells by interfering with certain proteins and receptors or blood vessels that supply the tumor with what it needs to grow.
Speech: The Section of Speech Pathology and Audiology at MD Anderson offers patients the most advanced techniques for restoring speech after larynx (voice box) cancer and its treatment. Experts provide specialized therapies to help patients regain their voice after partial or total removal of the larynx.
Swallowing: Experts in the Swallowing Outcomes Research Laboratory are dedicated to evaluating and treating patients who have difficulty after treatment. MD Anderson’s swallowing service is one of the leaders in the country and serves as a model for the management of patients treated for throat cancers.
Survivorship: Throat cancer patients are strongly urged not to smoke or drink alcohol during and after treatment. Drinking and smoking can make treatments less successful, and they can greatly increase the chance of the cancer returning. MD Anderson has a survivorship clinic dedicated to the needs of head and neck cancer patients.
Regular follow-up and screening is vital due to the high risk of throat cancer returning to the throat or other areas in the head and neck region. Patients may need to see their doctors every three to six months for the first two years after treatment, since 80% to 90% of new cancers occur within the first three years.
Our Throat Cancer Clinical Trials
Since MD Anderson is one of the nation’s leading research centers, we’re able to offer clinical trials (research studies) of experimental treatments for throat cancer. As one of the few cancer centers in the nation to house a prestigious federally funded Head and Neck SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence), MD Anderson is able to offer clinical trials (research studies) of experimental treatments for various types and stages of head and neck cancer.