Surgical, radiation and medical oncologists in the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

Our multi-specialty team offers all services required for the treatment of this complex disease. If you have questions or want to make an appointment, call (713) 798-5900.

What You Need to Know

According to the American Cancer Society, head and neck cancer affected over 61,000 patients in the United States in 2016. In fact, cancer of the mouth and throat was the eighth most common cancer diagnosed in men last year. Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is the most frequent tumor of the head and neck region, developing in the mucous membrane of the mouth, nose and throat.

Prevention and Risk Factors

Preventative steps can help lower your risk for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Cessation of smoking and moderation of alcohol are the most important preventative measures you can take.

Additional risk factors that can increase your chances of getting head and neck squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • Occupational hazards such as nickel and wood dust, and the use of chewing tobacco, snuff or betel nut.
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) has been shown to be associated with cancers of the throat (oropharynx).


Since the head and neck involves many different complicated structures, symptoms vary. Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth include ulcers that will not heal, unexplained pain in the mouth or ears, tongue weakness, or slurred speech. Symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma of the throat or larynx (voice box) may present as unexplained hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, or worsening breathing.

Additionally, any unexplained neck mass or lump that does not go away after one to two weeks should be evaluated by an otolaryngologist – head and neck surgeon.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Early detection of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is critical to both achieving a cure and preserving the functions of the head and neck structures (mouth, nose and throat). Diagnosis requires imaging with contrast enhanced computed tomography (CT) and/or positron emission tomography (PET) scans. It also requires a tissue diagnosis to confirm the presence and type of cancer cells.

For most patients, treatment will involve a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or clinical trials. Regardless of the therapies used, treatment of all cancer in the head and neck requires experts who understand both how to treat the disease, and how to preserve function and maintain quality of life after the cancer is gone. By combining expertise in head and neck cancer surgery, reconstructive surgery, systemic therapy, and radiation therapy, the multidisciplinary team at the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center offers the most up-to-date and effective treatment options for you or your loved one.