Services and Programs
Head and Neck Cancer
Introduction to Head and Neck Cancer Patient Care at BMC
At Boston Medical Center (BMC), the care of patients with head and neck cancer is a collaborative, multidisciplinary process. Organizing our services around each patient, we bring together the expertise of diverse specialists to manage your care from your first consultation through treatment and follow-up visits. We guide you throughout the entire diagnostic process and treatment course.
In our highly supportive and collaborative environment, experts in head and neck cancer provide you with the most advanced, coordinated, and comprehensive medical care available anywhere—treatment that is effective and innovative in curing and controlling cancer and managing its impact on your quality of life.
BMC is a major provider in the Northeast for primary and tertiary referrals of patients with head and neck malignancies. Our team evaluates and manages both early stage as well as recurrent and aggressive cancers.
At BMC, diagnosis and treatment of patients with head and neck cancer combines the resources of a multidisciplinary clinical center dedicated to personal, patient-focused care with the state-of-the-art expertise and technological advances of a major teaching hospital. As the primary teaching affiliate of the Boston University School of Medicine, BMC is at the forefront of clinical practice, clinical trials, surgical expertise, and research in oncology.
Head and neck cancer is a treatable disease. In our culture of innovation, collaboration, and compassionate care, you will receive treatment from physicians who are nationally recognized leaders in the care of patients with all stages of head and neck cancer.
For more information or to refer a patient, please call BMC Connect at 877.781.4763 or email us at HNC.Center@bmc.org. Patients with a diagnosis or strong suspicion of cancer are given appointments within 72 hours.
In 2010, more than 55,000 Americans were diagnosed with cancers of the head and neck. These malignancies can disfigure the face and neck and affect a person’s speech, eyesight, hearing, ability to swallow, and sense of smell.
Fortunately, many of these cancers are curable if caught at an early stage.
Cancers of the head and neck generally develop in the squamous cells (the outermost layer of cells) that line the moist surfaces inside the mouth, nose, and throat. Cells, the body's basic unit of life, divide to form new cells, and after performing their functions for a while, they die. However, cancer cells do not die. Instead, they continue to divide and produce extra cells that mass into a tumor. If the tumor is benign, it does not invade nearby tissue or spread (metastasize) elsewhere in the body. If the tumor is malignant, it is a cancer that grows and invades healthy tissue and may metastasize to other parts of the body.
Ninety percent of head and neck cancer cases are squamous cell carcinomas, malignant tumors on the surface of the oral cavity, the aerodigestive tract (respiratory and digestive passages), and other organs.
Many cancers of the head and neck produce early warning signs. General symptoms may include a persistent sore, a lump, swelling, soreness or pain in the face, neck, mouth, jaw, or throat.
If any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, you are advised to see your physician.
Most head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and smokeless tobaccos, such as chewing tobacco and snuff. Using both tobacco and alcohol puts an individual at greater risk than either of these habits alone. A subset of head and neck cancers may be caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).