Head and Neck Cancer - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is head and neck cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor will speak to you about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical examination. Signs of head and neck cancers may be detected easily by examining the oral and nasal cavities, and the neck, throat and tongue for lumps or sores.

Your doctor will likely recommend diagnostic tests such as:

How is head and neck cancer treated?

Head and neck cancers are considered to be treatable at all stages.

Generally, treatment for head and neck cancer will depend on the type of cancer, its location and stage, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Your doctor will recommend a suitable treatment plan based on these factors while also considering your overall health.

The main treatment options for head and neck cancer are surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Others include targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

  • Surgery will remove the tumour together with a margin of surrounding tissue. If the cancer has spread, some of the lymph nodes may also be removed.
  • Radiotherapy kills cancer cells using high-energy X-rays delivered externally or using an implant.
  • Chemotherapy kills cancer cells using strong medications. It is commonly used to treat advanced head and neck cancers.
  • Targeted therapy uses specialised drugs that act on cancer cells, preventing them from growing and spreading.
  • Immunotherapy boosts the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.

Chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy may be used alone or in combination.

For early stage head and neck cancers, typically only surgery or radiotherapy is sufficient.

For advanced head and neck cancers, combination therapy is necessary, either surgery followed by radiotherapy with or without chemotherapy, or chemoradiation followed by surgery as necessary.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

Need help?

For enquiries, please call
+65 6250 0000 (Orchard) or +65 6898 6898 (Novena)

For appointment bookings, please WhatsApp
+65 8111 7777 (Orchard) or +65 8111 5777 (Novena)