Skin Cancer of the Head, Neck & Face
Skin cancer typically develops on areas of the skin that are exposed frequently or for long periods of time to the sun, such as the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck and even eyes.
Skin cancer can affect people of all skin types. Common types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Skin cancer risk factors include exposure to UV rays (from sunlight and commercial tanning beds), fair skin, moles and a family history of skin cancer.
Advanced complex skin cancers require the specialized expertise and leading-edge treatments that Colorado Head & Neck's fellowship-trained head and neck surgeons provide. Working with a multidisciplinary team of oncology specialists, we craft a personalized treatment plan that is based on your age, the advancement (or stage) of your cancer, your health, and other factors.
We will work with you to determine the best course of treatment for you.
HPV-Related Head & Neck Cancers
Certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cancer, including cancer of the head and neck.
HPV-related head and neck cancers are commonly found in the tonsils and the back of the tongue. While most head and neck cancers are associated with tobacco and alcohol use, a majority of oropharyngeal cancers appear to be the result of HPV infection.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus)
It’s fairly well known that sexually-transmitted HPV, or the human papillomavirus, can cause cervical cancer in women. But over the past decade, doctors have seen an alarming increase in HPV-associated oral cancer in men. HPV now accounts for up to 95 percent of all oropharynx cancer, which occurs in the tonsils, back of the mouth or base of the tongue. This is primarily affecting Caucasian men between 40 and 60 years old.
About 100 people in the US are diagnosed every day with oral cancer, with oropharynx being the most common. One person dies every hour from this cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
Oral cancer diagnosed in its early stages has an 80-90 percent cure rate. Oropharynx cancer usually shows up as a lump or swelling in the neck that doesn’t go away, Gaines says. Other less common symptoms include a persistent sore throat or trouble swallowing. Anything like this that persists for a few weeks without really improving is something to be concerned about and you should see your primary care doctor.
HPV-related oral cancer may be found by your dentist during a routine dental exam. Your Colorado Head & Neck Specialists are board-certified ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeons with the advanced skills to provide leading-edge treatments for oral and oropharyngeal cancer. Treatment may include one or a combination of the following methods:
- Transoral Robotic and Transoral Microsurgery allow the removal of tumors through the mouth with less disruption of normal structures and faster recovery of swallowing than conventional surgery.
- Radiation and Chemotherapy are used both in combination with and sometimes in place of surgery to treat many types of head and neck cancers when appropriate.
Benign & Malignant Parotid Tumors
Located in front of each ear, the parotid gland is one of the three major glands that produce saliva. Though cancer of the salivary gland is rare - and most tumors are benign - large salivary gland tumors typically begin in the parotid gland. Symptoms may include a lump below the ear or in the upper neck, facial drooping, or persistent pain in the area.
Treatment for cancers of the parotid gland require the kind of advanced expertise that specialists like Colorado Head and Neck's fellowship-trained head and neck surgeons are adept at providing.
The type of treatment you receive may depend on a variety of factors, including your age, the stage of the cancer, your health and other factors. You and your Colorado Head and Neck surgeon will determine the best course of treatment for you.
Treatment may include one or more of these modalities when appropriate:
- Surgery to remove the tumor.
- Radiation therapy, which uses targeted high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy, a drug therapy that kills cancer cells or prevents them from multiplying.
Head & Neck Surgical Oncology
A cancer diagnosis generates a lot of questions. What are my chances with surgery? Will I need chemotherapy or radiation? What happens if I do nothing?
At Colorado Head and Neck Specialists in Denver, our head and neck surgical oncology specialists are here to answer those questions. Our physicians work together to provide each patient with comprehensive, individualized care.
For patients with head or neck cancer, including HPV-related cancers, complex skin cancers, tumors of thyroid and parathyroid glands, and tumors of the salivary glands, we offer a team of specially trained surgical oncologists backed up by the comprehensive and expert care of a multidisciplinary team at the Porter Cancer Center.
If you choose a surgical approach to treating cancer, you can rest easy. With more than 64 years of combined experience, our surgeons specialize in minimally invasive techniques, including transoral robotic and transoral laser microsurgery, and have advanced training in head and neck reconstruction.
You also have access to all of the cancer care resources of Porter Cancer Center, including support groups, nutrition services and more. We also partner with other specialties within the Porter Cancer Center, such as radiation and medical oncology, neurosurgeons, maxillofacial surgeons and others.
Transoral Robotic & Laser Microsurgery
At Colorado Head and Neck Specialists, our surgeons are highly trained in leading-edge treatments for cancer.
They are trained in minimally invasive techniques by the world's most respected experts in head and neck cancer treatment. Their expertise in these techniques is unmatched in Colorado.
Transoral robotic surgery is a minimally invasive technique that utilizes robotic instrumentation to remove throat tumors through the mouth. This approach minimizes damage to surrounding tissue and allows for faster recovery.
Transoral microsurgery is another minimally invasive technique that allows the tumor to be removed through the mouth without disrupting important functional anatomy. It can be used when a tumor isn't accessible using the robotic surgery approach.
Transoral laser microsurgery and transoral robotic surgery are distinguished by the equipment used to perform the operation and to some extent by the approach to tumor resection, but have the same end result - cancer removal through the mouth.
Not all patients are candidates for these surgeries, but those who are have experienced the positive benefits.
Compared with traditional or "open" surgery, those benefits include:
- No need to split the patient's jaw to gain access to the tumor (called a jaw-split approach)
- Less need for tracheotomy
- Less pain
- Less blood loss and minimal scarring
- Shorter hospital stay
- Faster return to normal speech and swallowing
Plus, with transoral surgery, some patients can be spared chemotherapy or radiation treatment. In cases where chemotherapy or radiation can't be avoided, we often are able to reduce the dosage of our patients' chemotherapy or radiation after these surgical approaches. And that leads to better outcomes as well as a higher quality of life.
Complex & Microvascular Reconstruction of the Head & Neck
Surgical treatment of head and neck cancers sometimes require removal of important functional tissue and structures.
In order to maximize post-treatment function, reconstruction of these structures may be necessary.
At Colorado Head & Neck Specialists, our surgeons are highly trained in reconstructive surgery of the head and neck that can help restore a patient's function as well as appearance. Reconstructive surgery can help maximize your ability to chew, swallow, speak and breathe.
Our head and neck surgeons specialize in the "free flap" reconstructive procedure. This procedure is an advanced form of reconstructive surgery. It involves transplanting tissue (or "flaps") from another part of a patient's body to his or her head, neck, jaw or face.
These tissues from other parts of the body can be used to rebuild the mouth, throat or jaw. We can take a portion of bone from the leg, for example, and use it to create a new jaw or cheekbones. The ultimate goal is to help a patient achieve the best functional and aesthetic result possible.
Open & Endoscopic Skull-Base Surgery
The skull base is where vital blood vessels and nerves enter and leave the skull.
When a tumor invades this complex area of the body, highly specialized and individualized care is needed.
At Colorado Head & Neck Specialists, our surgeons are specially trained in traditional and endoscopic skull-base surgery. In the past, removal and replacement of a portion of the skull was the only way to access tumors in this area.
Benefits of endoscopic skull-base surgery include:
- Less damage to the brain's structures and nerves
- Lower risk of infection
- Reduced risk of disfigurement
- Shorter recovery time
Our surgeons are trained in this minimally invasive technique. The surgery involves using precision micro-instruments inserted through the nose to reach the tumor safely. Endoscopic surgery generally does not require a large incision. Instead, surgeons use an endoscope, a thin lighted tube, to remove the tumor.
While the endoscopic approach is usually the preferred method, there are times when traditional (or open) skull-base surgery is necessary. That decision is based on the judgment of an experienced surgical team. For this surgical approach, a surgeon may need to make incisions in the face and skull, and parts of bone may need to be removed to allow the surgeon to remove the tumor.