Head & Neck Cancer

State of the art surgical procedures, the latest drug therapies and leading-edge medical technologies for head and neck cancer treatment.

Head & Neck Cancer Specialists

Head & Neck cancers include malignant and benign tumors of the mouth/oral cavity, throat cancer, tumors of the larynx (or voicebox), salivary gland and thyroid gland, and tumors of the sinuses and skull base.The treatment of Head and Neck cancers often results in significant functional problems such as difficulty with swallowing, breathing and speaking. Cosmetics and appearance can be a major concern. Our team is distinguished by its focus on the best possible outcomes for each patient, offering minimally invasive trans-oral surgical approaches, trans-nasal endoscopic techniques and major reconstructive surgery when needed.


A Multidisciplinary Team Offers Comprehensive Care

Our fellowship-trained Head and Neck surgeons offer specialized expertise in surgical oncology, micro-vascular reconstructive surgery, and skull-base surgical procedures. Our Radiation Oncologists use advanced techniques to maximize the treatment of Head & Neck cancer while minimizing side effects. Our specialists are experienced in the use of external beam radiation therapy for the management of a spectrum of Head and Neck cancers including oral cavity cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, larynx cancer, and salivary gland cancer.

Medical oncologists use targeted protocols to maximize treatment effects from surgery and/or radiation. As a cancer research center, clinical trials are an integral part of our program and are recommended when appropriate. Our multidisciplinary team of surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists develop a comprehensive care plan for each patient’s unique issues, and have all of the resources of a large research institution at their disposal. This includes a specialized Head & Neck tumor board that incorporates key physicians from across the Cancer Institute who give advice on individual cases. Nurse navigators, nutritionists, and specialized physical therapy providers are integral to our success in treating Head & Neck cancers. Our team also has the resources of our partner, Memorial Sloan Kettering, to draw upon in treating difficult Head & Neck cancer cases.


What Are Head & Neck Cancer Symptoms?

Patients with initial symptoms of Head and Neck cancer often notice an asymptomatic neck mass, hoarseness or voice disturbances, difficulty or pain with swallowing, throat pain, or ear pain.

Head and neck cancers account for approximately 4% of all cancers in the United States, and are more than twice as common among men as among women. These cancers are most often diagnosed in people over the age of 50. It is estimated that over 65,000 Americans will be diagnosed with head and neck cancers in 2017.

Community physicians are encouraged to refer patients with concerning symptoms to our Head and Neck Cancer specialists for evaluation.


What Are Types of Head & Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancer accounts for 3-5% of all cancers in the United States. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common, arising from the mucosal lining of the mouth, throat, sinuses, or larynx. Salivary gland tumors are more rare - tumors of the parotid gland, submandibular gland or minor salivary glands in the oral cavity and throat.

Thyroid cancer is typically thought of separately from other Head and Neck cancers. Thyroid cancer has a much higher survival rate compared to other Head and Neck cancers, and treatment strategies typically have fewer side effects.


What Are Treatments for Head & Neck Cancer?

Treatment of Head and Neck tumors often includes a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Patients may also take part in clinical trials of chemotherapy given simultaneously with radiation therapy or other new treatment techniques.

Specialized approaches to external-beam radiation therapy may include the use of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image guided radiation therapy (IGRT). IMRT enables our physicians to customize the intensity of each radiation beam to conform to specific tumor shapes and sizes. IMRT reduces the dosage of radiation to healthy tissues thereby lessening the risk of side effects. IGRT enables our physicians to maximize the accuracy of the radiation delivery with the assistance high quality xray or CAT scan images.

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What Are Risk Factors for Head & Neck Cancer?

The biggest risk factors for head and neck cancers are alcohol and tobacco use (including smokeless tobacco). These risk factors cause at least 75% of head and neck cancers, with the exception of salivary gland cancers.

Using both tobacco and alcohol gives you an even greater risk of developing head and neck cancer than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.

Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV), especially HPV type 16, increases risk for some types of head and neck cancers, particularly oropharyngeal cancers of the tonsils or tongue.

Other risk factors for cancers of the head and neck include the following:

  • Using Paan (betel quid).
  • Eating Preserved or salted foods.
  • Certain occupational exposures.
    • Occupational exposure to wood dust increases your risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.
    • Industrial exposure to asbestos and synthetic fibers is associated with cancer of the larynx.
    • People working in certain jobs in the construction, metal, textile, ceramic, logging, and food industries may have an increased risk of cancer of the larynx.
    • Industrial exposure to wood or nickel dust or formaldehyde is a risk factor for cancers of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity.
  • Radiation exposure.
  • Epstein-Barr virus infection.
  • Asian ancestry, particularly Chinese ancestry, is a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer.

​To find and diagnose head and neck cancer, tests are used to examine the tissues of the neck, respiratory tract, and upper part of the digestive tract to identify the primary tumor in the organs and tissues of the respiratory tract (part of the trachea), the upper part of the digestive tract (including the lips, mouth, tongue, nose, throat, vocal cords, and part of the esophagus), and the genitourinary system.

Diagnosis of head or neck cancer requires a biopsy of the suspected tissues. The following procedures are used to remove samples of cells or tissue:

  • Tonsillectomy
  • Endoscopy: The nose, throat, back of the tongue, esophagus, stomach, voice box, windpipe, and large airways will be checked.

One or more of the following laboratory tests may be done:

  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Light and electron microscopy
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) test
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • CT scan (CAT scan)
  • PET scan (positron emission tomography scan)

Meet our Head & Neck Cancer Specialists:

Name Specialties Location
Alsamarai, Susan, MD
203.238.7747
  • Hematology / Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Meriden
Boey, Howard Patrick, MD
203.777.7500
  • Otolaryngology
  • Meriden
Bonaiuto, Gregory Salvatore, MD
860.493.1950
  • Head & Neck Surgery
  • Otolaryngology
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  • Hartford
  • Wethersfield
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Boyd, Timothy Stephen, MD
860.972.2803
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Hartford
Cavanagh, Norman James, MD, DMD
860.548.7338
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Farmington
  • Hartford
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Chu, Benjamin, MD
860.249.6291
  • Medical Oncology
  • Hematology / Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Hartford
  • Avon
  • Willimantic
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Dowsett, Robert James, MD
860.972.2803
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Hartford
Fumo, Gerard, DO
203.238.7747
  • Hematology / Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
  • Medical Oncology
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  • Meriden
Giove, Lawrence M., MD
860.246.6647
  • Medical Oncology
  • Hematology / Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Wethersfield
Goldman, Jonathan F., DMD
860.242.6142
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Bloomfield
  • West Hartford
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Googel, Fredric Ronald, DMD
860.666.5674
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Newington
Khan, Anwar Mangey, MD
860.827.4161
  • Radiation Oncology
  • New Britain
Lieblich, Stuart Edward, DMD
860.674.8079
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Avon
Martin, Richard J., MD, DMD
860.885.0444
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Norwich
Melnik, George Anthony, MD
860.224.2631
  • Head & Neck Surgery
  • Otolaryngology
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  • New Britain
  • Southington
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Moeller, Carl William, MD
860.493.1950
  • Head & Neck Surgery
  • Otolaryngology
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  • Hartford
  • Wethersfield
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Nadkarni, Rajani P., MD
203.238.7747
  • Hematology / Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Meriden
Piorkowski, Robert Joseph, MD, FACS
860.696.2040
  • Surgical Oncology
  • Breast Surgery
  • General Surgery
  • Head & Neck Surgery
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  • Hartford
  • Wethersfield
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Reiner, Steven S., DDS
860.347.6939
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Glastonbury
  • Middletown
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Rutter, Charles E., MD
860.972.2803
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Hartford
Ryan, Lawrence Patrick, DDS, MD
860.295.8780
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Marlborough
Salner, Andrew, MD
860.972.2803
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Hartford
Schauer, Peter Kevin, MD, FACP
860.249.6291
  • Medical Oncology
  • Internal Medicine
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  • Hartford
  • Avon
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Shafer, David M., DMD
860.679.2583
  • Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
  • Farmington
Stock, Alden Lawrence, MD
860.224.2631
  • Head & Neck Surgery
  • Otolaryngology
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  • New Britain

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute