Head and Neck Cancer


Head and Neck Cancer Care 

When you have cancer, you need a team of support. A diagnosis of head or neck cancer can feel overwhelming, but you are not alone. We are here for you every step of the way through your journey of diagnosis and treatment.

Cancer treatments have progressed significantly in recent years and survivor rates have increased as a result.

Coordinated Team Approach 

We provide coordinated care that includes the latest treatments in surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Each patient is an active partner in his or her care team. Our goal is for patients to be involved in the decisions related to care and to always know the next step.

We want to help you feel healthy again. In addition to the critical medical treatments you will receive, we offer health and wellness services that treat the whole body and mind, promoting physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing.

Learn more about head and neck cancer services and what you can expect during your treatment journey. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at 231-392-8400 or CancerServices@mhc.net.

What is Head and Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancers start in the tissues and organs of the head and neck including the:

  • Larynx (voice box)

  • Lips

  • Mouth

  • Nose

  • Salivary glands

  • Throat 

Most of these types of cancer begin in squamous cells that line the moist surfaces inside the head and neck like the mouth, nose, and throat.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for head and neck cancers include tobacco use in any form and excessive alcohol consumption. People who both smoke and drink heavily have a 30-fold increase in risk.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection of the mouth and throat also increases risk.

Learn More

You can find trusted information about head and neck cancer via the National Cancer Institute.

What to Expect


Cancer treatment begins with a diagnosis. Through testing, your care team will determine your type of cancer. These test results will help us develop an individualized treatment plan for you.

We understand that this phase can be very difficult as you are waiting for answers. Our goal is to move you through the diagnostic process as quickly as possible in order to minimize the emotional strain.

Your Treatment Plan

We offer a coordinated approach to care that varies based on your specific needs.

Your case may be discussed at our weekly Tumor Board meetings. This is a multidisciplinary team of physicians and support staff that discusses patients’ care plans and makes recommendations for multiple types of cancer. 

After testing and consultations are complete, your otolaryngologist or ENT (ear, nose, throat) physician will explain to you the type, stage, and characteristics of your cancer and discuss the next steps for treatment. You may be referred to a medical oncologist and or radiation oncologist depending on your needs and care plan.

Treatment for your cancer will depend upon the type, location, and stage of the cancer. Other factors that impact treatment decisions include your age and other health conditions.

Our physicians provide the latest in treatments. When more complex treatments are necessary, we work closely with specialists across the state and nation.

Your treatment plan may include a combination of any one of the following approaches:

Throughout your treatment and beyond, our speech therapists and dietitians are available to help you remain nourished.

Depending on your situation, you may also need to see other professionals, such as a dentist or prosthetist.

Learn More about Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Health and Wellness at the Cowell Family Cancer Center

We believe that everything matters in cancer treatment.

The Health and Wellness Suite at the Cowell Family Cancer Center in Traverse City offers space for physical, emotional and spiritual healing through integrative therapies, meditation, exercise, nutrition and the arts.

Services are available for patients, staff, family members, caregivers and the community.

Services include:

Meet our Care Team

Our team of specialists provide screening, diagnosis, and treatment for head and neck cancer. Your care team may include:

ENT/OtolaryngologyA physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases of the head and neck, especially those involving the ears, nose, and throat (ENT). Also called an ENT, ENT doctor, or ENT physician.

Radiation OncologistsPhysicians with an expertise in the use of radiation therapy for treating cancer.

Medical OncologistsPhysicians who specialize in using medical methods to treat cancer. Your medical oncologist may diagnose the cancer, choose the appropriate medical treatment method, provide follow-up care, and coordinate palliative care to help ease symptoms.

The Cowell Family Cancer Center Support Team

Our care coordination team is here to support you and usually includes a nurse and nurse practitioner who will ensure that your next steps are planned and communicated.

Our compassionate team also includes a dietitian, a social worker, palliative/supportive care providers, and financial navigators to ensure that your individual needs are addressed.

For more information, regarding Cowell Family Cancer Center services or to be transferred to a regional network facility, call 231-392-8400 and speak with one of our resource specialists.

Availability of support services varies according to the specific regional cancer network location.

Treatment Locations

Cowell Family Cancer Center

You can find treatment and resources for head and neck cancer at our Cowell Family Cancer Center on the Munson Medical Center campus in Traverse City. This state-of-the-art cancer center opened in 2016 and provides most cancer services including diagnosis, treatment, integrative therapies, follow-up, and supportive care.

Other Locations

Medical oncology follow up visits and chemotherapy may be available to you close to home through our regional cancer network.

Clinical Trials for Head and Neck Cancer

Clinical trials are studies that involve people and are the final research step in a long process that begins with lab research. You may want to consider participating in a clinical trial.

Depending on the clinical trial, part of your care may need to occur in Traverse City.

We have participated in cancer clinical trials for more than 30 years through the National Cancer Institute. This program offers our patients the chance to participate in large, national research trials while remaining at home in northern Michigan.

To learn more about clinical trials for head and neck cancer, visit these websites or talk to your doctor: