Why Choose Us for Head and Neck Cancer Care?

Better Survival Rates

Patients with head and neck cancer who come to the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center for care live longer than patients treated elsewhere. For example, 64 percent of our patients with stage IV head and neck cancer survive five years after treatment, compared to the national average of 42 percent.

More Experience with Complex Cases

Our head and neck cancer program is one of the busiest in the country, seeing hundreds of patients each week. This means that our cohesive team of experts has experience treating a range of cases, including the most complex cancers.

Our doctors are pioneers in using a combination radiation and chemotherapy treatment that can control locally advanced head and neck cancers in the majority of patients and preserve critical functions such as speech and swallowing. A study conducted at the University of Chicago found that this combined therapy controls cancer in more than 85 percent of patients with advanced disease, with 62 percent of patients surviving long term.

Internationally Recognized Experts

Elizabeth Blair and patient

Our treatment team is made up of internationally respected experts from every area of head and neck cancer care and research. Members of our multidisciplinary team often serve on national and international boards to develop guidelines for care, and frequently lead multi-institutional studies of new treatment approaches.

Less Invasive Diagnosis and Treatment

We offer minimally invasive techniques to diagnose and treat several types of head and neck cancer. For instance, our doctors offer a less invasive way to check the esophagus for cancer called transnasal esophagoscopy. This procedure can be done in the office setting without general anesthesia.

When surgery is the best option for patients, our surgeons can perform organ-sparing techniques that maximize the chances of functional recovery. In addition, our surgeons have developed innovative surgical approaches that can access difficult to reach areas, (such as the skull base or carotid artery). Restoration of bone and soft tissue in the head and neck is often accomplished with a technique called microvascular free flap reconstruction. These methods help to rebuild tissues in the head and neck such as the jawbone and pharynx. Many times, a patient’s appearance and speech and swallowing functions can be preserved.

When Preventing Cancer Is the Focus

The University of Chicago is home to a new Upper Aerodigestive Cancer Risk Clinic, which provides patients with access to ongoing clinical trials to test new ways to detect oral cancer early on.

Research into New Alternatives for Treatment

Our doctors and scientists are committed to advancing treatment of head and neck cancer through research. Currently, researchers are testing the latest targeted therapies such as drugs that react against the cancer’s growth factors.

As recognized experts in this field, our team has led several multi-institutional clinical studies, including a large, international phase III trial looking at the benefit of chemotherapy prior to concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy for advanced head and neck cancer limited to a specific area. At any given time, our team is actively conducting clinical and basic science research into nearly every aspect of this disease.