Oncology social workers help you cope with the emotional and practical challenges of head and neck cancer. Contact us at 800‑813‑HOPE (4673) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about counseling.
Learn more about how CancerCare Resource Navigation can help you address barriers to care.
Find resources and support to manage your financial concerns. Limited assistance from CancerCare® is available to eligible families for cancer-related costs.
Connect with others in our free support groups led by oncology social workers.
We currently do not offer a head and neck cancer specific group. You may consider joining our general online support groups for people with cancer. Register now.
Learn about and view the full calendar of our free community programs.
CancerCare offers specialized programs to address specific populations and concerns.
Connect Education Workshops
Listen in by telephone or online as leading experts in oncology provide up-to-date information about cancer-related issues in one-hour workshops. Podcasts are also available.
Head and Neck Cancer
- Oral, Head and Neck Cancer: Treatment Updates, May 31, 2023
- Caring for Your Loved One with Cancer, Apr 3, 2023
- Current Perspectives on Cancer Survivorship, May 2, 2023
- Understanding How Health Care Disparities May Influence Your Cancer Treatment and Care: With Tips and Strategies to Find the Best Cancer Treatment and Health Care Team for You, May 15, 2023
- Update on COVID for People Living with Cancer & Their Caregivers, May 22, 2023
- Taking Your Pills on Schedule: Its Importance in Managing Cancer, May 24, 2023
- Understanding Diagnostic Technologies and Biomarkers, Jun 26, 2023
Head and Neck Cancer
- Oral, Head & Neck Cancer: Treatment Update, Jun 1, 2022
- Highlights from the 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, Jul 22, 2021
- Treatment Update in Oral and Head and Neck Cancer, Apr 28, 2021
- Highlights from the 2020 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting: Unite and Conquer: Accelerating Progress Together, Jul 30, 2020
- What’s New in the Treatment of Oral and Head and Neck Cancer, Apr 15, 2020
- Understanding Diagnostic Technologies and Biomarkers, Jan 23, 2023
- Taking Your Pills on Schedule: Its Importance in Managing Cancer, Nov 9, 2022
- Eye and Vision Changes Related to Cancer Treatments, Aug 22, 2022
- Chemotherapy Treatment Side Effects: Prevention & Management, Jun 10, 2022
- Diverse Populations Participating in Decisions about Your Care with Your Health Care Team, May 23, 2022
- Clinical Trials: How They Transform the Treatment of Cancer, May 18, 2022
- What’s New in Precision Medicine, May 11, 2022
- Taking Your Pills on Schedule: Why It Is So Important in Managing Cancer, May 4, 2022
- Current Perspectives on Cancer Survivorship, May 3, 2022
- Managing the Side Effects of Immunotherapy, Apr 27, 2022
- Caring for Your Loved One with Cancer, Apr 25, 2022
- Understanding the Role of Immunotherapy in Treating Cancer, Mar 23, 2022
- Understanding How Health Care Disparities May Influence Your Cancer Treatment and Care: With Tips & Strategies to Find the Best Cancer Treatment & Health Care Team for You, Mar 21, 2022
- Emerging Importance of Telemedicine/Telehealth Appointments in Communicating with Your Health Care Team, Mar 16, 2022
- CAR T-Cell Therapy: What's New, Mar 15, 2022
- COVID-19, Omicron & Delta Variants, COVID-19 Vaccines & Booster Vaccines: Revised Guidelines for People Living with Cancer and Their Loved Ones, Feb 7, 2022
- Managing Eye and Vision Changes Related to Cancer Treatments, Jan 24, 2022
- Preventing, Managing & Treating Infection in Adults Living with Cancer, Oct 25, 2021
- Clinical Trials: How They Transform the Treatment of Cancer, Aug 25, 2021
- What’s New in Precision Medicine, Jun 30, 2021
- How Health Care Disparities May Influence Your Cancer Treatment & Care, Jun 21, 2021
- Caring for Your Loved One with Cancer, Jun 8, 2021
- Managing the Side Effects of Immunotherapy, May 26, 2021
- Understanding the Role of Immunotherapy in Treating Cancer, May 19, 2021
- What’s New in Diagnostic Technologies for People Living with Solid Cancer Tumors, May 17, 2021
- Taking Your Pills on Schedule: Why It Is So Important in Managing Cancer, Apr 14, 2021
- Update on Clinical Trials: How They Work, Apr 7, 2021
- Emerging Importance of Telemedicine/Telehealth Appointments in Communicating with Your Health Care Team, Mar 31, 2021
- Managing Eye and Vision Changes Related to Cancer Treatments, Mar 15, 2021
- Current Perspectives on Cancer Survivorship, Feb 9, 2021
- The 9/11 Community, Cancer & COVID-19, Jan 25, 2021
- How Diagnostic Technologies and Biomarkers Improve Treatment Decisions for People Living with Cancer, Dec 7, 2020
- What We Now Know about COVID-19: Revised Guidelines for People Living with Cancer, Nov 16, 2020
- Cancer and Flu Shots, Nov 9, 2020
- Caregiving for Your Loved One Living with Cancer, Nov 3, 2020
- Preventing and Managing Infections in Adults Living with Cancer, Oct 26, 2020
- Managing the Cost of Living with Cancer, Sep 23, 2020
- Veterans Living with Cancer, Jun 26, 2020
- Treatment Adherence: Taking Your Pills on Schedule – Why It Is So Important, Jun 24, 2020
- Understanding Diagnostic Technologies and Biomarkers, Jun 22, 2020
- What are Biosimilars? Understanding Their Role in Cancer Treatment: Current and Future Perspectives, Jun 18, 2020
- Current Perspectives in Cancer Survivorship, Jun 16, 2020
- The New Coronavirus (COVID-19): Emerging Guidelines for People Living & Coping with Cancer, Jun 15, 2020
- Managing the Side Effects of Immunotherapy, May 6, 2020
- Understanding the Role of Immunotherapy in Treating Cancer, Apr 29, 2020
- For Caregivers: Care Coordination for Your Loved One Living with Cancer and Other Health Problems, Apr 22, 2020
- The New Coronavirus (COVID-19): Updated Guidelines for People Coping with Cancer, Apr 20, 2020
- Caregiving for Your Loved One with Cancer, Apr 14, 2020
- Participating in Decisions about Your Care, Apr 8, 2020
- The New Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidelines for People Coping with Cancer, Mar 30, 2020
- Cancer and The Workplace: Understanding Your Legal Protections, Mar 25, 2020
- New Perspectives in Clinical Trial Research, Mar 20, 2020
- Understanding the Costs of Care and Your Health Care Coverage, Mar 18, 2020
- Trends in Oncology and Treatment Planning: What You Need to Know, Mar 4, 2020
- Managing Eye and Vision Changes Related to Cancer Treatments, Mar 2, 2020
- Taking Your Treatment on Schedule: Its Importance in Managing Cancer, Feb 26, 2020
- Care for Your Bones During & After Cancer Treatment: Tips to Improve Bone Health, Nov 18, 2019
- Preventing Chemotherapy Induced Nausea and Vomiting, Oct 28, 2019
- Participating in Decisions about Your Care, Jun 19, 2019
- New Trends in Cancer Survivorship, Jun 18, 2019
- For Caregivers: Care Coordination for Your Loved One Living with Cancer and Other Health Problems, Jun 17, 2019
- Understanding the Costs of Care and Your Health Care Coverage, Jun 12, 2019
- Cancer and the Workplace: Understanding Your Legal Protections, May 29, 2019
- Managing Eye and Vision Changes Related to Cancer Treatments, Apr 15, 2019
- Joys and Challenges of Pets in Your Home When You Have Cancer, Apr 8, 2019
- Caregiving for Your Loved One with Cancer, Mar 19, 2019
- Current Perspectives on Cancer Survivorship, Dec 11, 2018
- Treatment-Related Rash and Dry Skin, Jun 20, 2018
- Mind Body Techniques to Cope with the Stresses of Cancer, Nov 15, 2017
- For Caregivers: Care Coordination for Your Loved One Living with Cancer and Other Health Problems, Jun 14, 2017
- Living with Cancer Throughout The Cancer Journey, Mar 10, 2017
- Managing Sensory Disruptions During Cancer Treatments, Dec 5, 2016
- For Health Care Professionals: Care Coordination for Older Men Living with Cancer, Aug 23, 2016
- Managing the Costs of Living with Cancer, Jun 8, 2016
- Nutrition and Healthy Eating Tips During and After Cancer Treatments, Feb 1, 2016
- What’s New in Managing Blood Clots During Cancer Treatments, Oct 30, 2015
- For Health Care Professionals: Care Coordination for Older Men Living with Cancer, Jul 14, 2015
- Healthy Eating and Managing Weight Changes During Cancer Treatment, Apr 13, 2015
- Highlights of the Affordable Care Act, Nov 11, 2014
- Managing Cancer Pain: What You Need to Know, Mar 21, 2014
- Young Adult Survivorship: Fertility, Sexuality and Intimacy, Jun 28, 2013
- Understanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for People Living with Cancer, Dec 12, 2012
- Managing Post-Treatment Neuropathy, Jul 17, 2012
- Recapturing Joy and Finding Meaning, May 15, 2012
- Planning Your Comfort and Care at End of Life, May 10, 2012
- Using Mind/Body Techniques to Cope with the Stress of Survivorship, Apr 24, 2012
- Nutrition, Physical Activity and You: A Guide for People Living With Cancer, Nov 15, 2011
- Fear of Recurrence and Late Effects: Living with Uncertainty, Jul 12, 2011
- Stress Management for Caregivers: Taking Care of Yourself Physically and Emotionally, Jun 14, 2011
- The Challenges of Coping with Cancer and Other Health Problems, Jun 1, 2011
- Weight Changes After Cancer Treatment: Why is it Happening and What Can I Do About It, May 10, 2011
- Mouth Pain and Discomfort: All You Need to Know About Mouth Sores and Oral Mucositis, Apr 27, 2011
- Helping Children and Teens Understand When a Parent or Loved One Has Cancer, Apr 20, 2011
- Chemobrain: The Impact of Cancer Treatments on Memory, Thinking and Attention, Apr 12, 2011
- Survivors Too: Communicating With and Among Family, Friends and Loved Ones, Jul 13, 2010
- Communicating with Your Health Care Team After Treatment: Making the Most of Your Visit, May 18, 2010
- Trouble Sleeping? Sleep Better to Feel Better: Tips You Can Use, Apr 13, 2010
- Helping Teachers and Educators Support Siblings of Children with Cancer, Oct 8, 2009
- Understanding Peripheral Neuropathy, Jul 16, 2009
- Survivors Too: Family, Friends and Loved Ones - Managing the Fatigue of Caregiving, Jun 23, 2009
- The Importance of Nutrition and Physical Activity, May 19, 2009
- For Parents, Caregivers and Professionals: Helping Brothers and Sisters of Children Living with Cancer, May 14, 2009
- Dental Health During Cancer Treatments, Apr 24, 2009
- Managing the Stress of Survivorship, Apr 14, 2009
- Medical Emergencies in Cancer Treatment, Apr 1, 2009
- Balancing Cancer and Careers: Living and Working with Cancer, Mar 12, 2009
- For Caregivers: Coping with Holidays, Special Occasions and Birthdays, Throughout the Year, Dec 12, 2008
- Survivors Too: Family, Friends and Loved Ones, Jun 24, 2008
- Rediscovering Intimacy in Your Relationships Following Treatment, May 13, 2008
- The Importance of Communicating with Your Doctor About Follow-Up Care, Apr 22, 2008
- Finding Hope and Meaning After Treatment, Jun 19, 2007
- My Treatment is Over: Why Do I Feel So Alone and Sad?, May 15, 2007
- Neuropathy and Joint Aches: New Post Treatment Challenges, Apr 17, 2007
- Managing Your Costs of Recovery, Jun 20, 2006
- Balancing Your Needs and Your Role as a Caregiver, Jun 13, 2006
- Is It My Cancer or Am I Getting Older?, May 23, 2006
- The Bereaved Caregiver in the Workplace, May 10, 2006
- Stress Management Tips for Survivors, Apr 25, 2006
- The Challenge of Creating Supportive Work Environments for Employees with Cancer and Their Caregivers, Apr 5, 2006
Read or order our free Connect booklets and fact sheets offering easy-to-read information about the latest cancer treatments, managing side effects and coping with cancer.
Head and Neck Cancer
- Treatment Update: Oral and Head and Neck CancerNew
- Your Guide to the Latest Cancer Research and Treatments: Highlights From the 2022 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical OncologyNew
- Coping With Oral and Head and Neck Cancer
- Coping With Cancer: Tools to Help You Live
- Caregiving for Your Loved One With Cancer
- Talking to Children When a Loved One Has Cancer
- Communicating With Your Health Care Team
- Understanding and Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects
- Sources of Financial Assistance
- Finding Resources in Your Community
- If You've Just Been Diagnosed
- What Can I Say to a Newly Diagnosed Loved One?
- Advice for Caregivers: How Can You Help Yourself?
Every month, featured experts answer your questions about coping with cancer. View all questions and answers.
Head and Neck Cancer
What are the long term permanent side effects in my throat from radiation?A.
Depending on exactly where you receive radiation, a number of side effects can occur either on a temporary, long-term, or delayed basis. They include changes in sensation (the ability to feel), secretions (dry mouth), taste, and range of motion (when tissue hardening restricts movement and posture). These side effects can then affect key physical functions associated with the mouth and throat, such as speech and, especially after radiation, swallowing.
Whether these side effects turn into a chronic condition (or lead to other problems) often depends on how soon they are recognized and treated. Certain precautions such as addressing dental issues, can be taken before treatment begins to reduce—if not outright prevent—long-term side effects. A publication from the National Cancer Institute, Oral Complications of Chemotherapy and Head/Neck Radiation, provides an overview of possible treatment side effects and how to manage them.
Here’s an additional resource that might be helpful:
I underwent a modified radical neck dissection. I lost feeling on the left side of my neck, head, tongue and shoulder. I have no sense of taste and have difficulty swallowing. Will the feeling and sense of taste return?A.
There are a number of changes after treatment similar to what you’ve described, some of which can be permanent. Rehabilitation, however, can ease the side effects of treatment, and there are ways to cope with these effects over the long term.
Given the complexities of treating head and neck cancer, a team approach which utilizes a variety of different specialists is essential to minimizing the complications and maximizing the chances for recovery. In addition to the treating physicians—an oral or ear, nose and throat surgeon, a medical and/or radiation oncologist, a plastic surgeon, prosthodontist, and a dentist among them—a number of other health care professionals can assist with your recovery. These other team members include dietitians, social workers, nurses, physical therapists, and speech-language therapists.
Check with your surgeon regarding the loss of feeling on the side of neck. While nerves may have been cut in the area during the node dissection, you should not rule out at least some sensation returning over time. Have your taste and swallowing problems evaluated using tests such as the modified barium swallow (a kind of x-ray) or fiberoptic endoscopy. A speech-language pathologist can provide advice and guide you with therapeutic exercises to improve swallowing ability. There are also medications (both prescription and over the counter) that can help with saliva problems and dietary changes (such as avoiding foods that are made up of small particles) to ensure you continue to obtain sufficient nutrition.
Consider joining a peer support group at your local medical center or through organizations such as Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC) or CancerCare.
What are the symptoms for head and neck cancer?A.
With any symptoms, it is necessary to check with your doctor in order to properly diagnose a medical condition. Normally, cancers that start in the neck are grouped with cancers of the head (primarily the mouth, nose, and throat). The warning signs of head and neck cancer include:
- Painless white patch or red patch in the mouth
- Hoarseness or change in voice
- Sore throat
- Painless lump in the mouth or neck
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or breathing
- Frequent nosebleed, particularly on one side of the nose
- Hearing loss or ear pain, particularly in one ear
- Blood in saliva or phlegm
- Weight loss or fatigue
Each year, more than 35,000 people develop head and neck cancer in the United States. However, only through physical examination and by performing various diagnostic tests, including tissue analysis, are doctors able to confirm a diagnosis of cancer with certainty. As with many cancers, the earlier it is diagnosed, the better the chances for successful treatment.
My 51-year-old brother has just been diagnosed with advanced cancer in his neck. We're waiting for results of PET scan for exact diagnosis and chemo will begin shortly. Can you offer any encouraging words?A.
I am sorry that your brother has to wait for more further information about what may be an advanced head and neck cancer. As difficult as waiting may be, however, it is essential that the medical team have as full a picture of his cancer as possible, to help them — and more importantly, your brother — understand what the treatment options are. There are different types of oral, head, and neck cancers: cancers of the oral cavity (including the lips, gums, and hard palate), the nasal cavity and sinuses, the salivary glands, the larynx (or voice box), and the pharynx and hypopharynx (different parts of the throat).
For a number of these cancers, treatments have improved, resulting in better quality of life and survival rates. Besides treatments specific to certain types of head and neck cancers, there is a whole new class of treatments called targeted treatments that are now being applied to head and neck cancers with promising results.
At 51, your brother is on the younger side for people with head and neck cancer, a factor which could work in his favor when estimating his ability to tolerate treatment and the likelihood of a good outcome. But statistics provide only a limited view of what the future may hold in store for your brother. It will be important for his medical team to review his individual cancer situation and medical history before they, or anyone else, can predict how all this will turn out.
You can prepare yourself by reading some basic information pertaining to head and neck cancer (how it is diagnosed and treated) to help you create a list of questions to ask the doctors:
- The National Cancer Institute’s Head and Neck Cancer: Questions and Answers
- The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Head and Neck Cancer Information
I'm looking to speak with other thyroid cancer patients—can you refer me to groups or organizations?A.
Connecting with other people who have been through the same emotions, feelings, and treatments that you have had can help you feel less alone and more understood. Here is a list of organizations that provide support groups and/or peer matching programs for people coping with thyroid cancer:
ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association, Inc. organizes support groups across the United States, monitors 12 online discussion groups, posts personal profiles and journals of survivors, facilitates an email support group, and runs the Person-to-Person Network, a peer matching program.
Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC) strives to raise awareness of issues related to head and neck cancer.
Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (formerly the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Foundation) is a foundation that hosts an online forum, organizes support groups, and sponsors Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week.
Cancer Hope Network provides free, one-on-one support to patients and their families. They match patients or family members with trained volunteers who have undergone and recovered from a similar cancer experience.
Imerman Angels matches and individually pairs a person touched by cancer with someone who has fought and survived the same type of cancer. Cancer caregivers (spouses, parents, children and loved ones) also receive one-on-one connections with other caregivers and survivors. The service is free and helps anyone touched by any type or stage of cancer, at any age, living anywhere in the world.
And CancerCare offers general online, face-to-face, and telephone support groups for people looking to talk about a wide range of cancer experiences. Our groups are facilitated by oncology social workers.
Magnolia Meals at Home
A meal delivery program that helps patients by providing nourishing meals to households affected by cancer. Is currently available in and around Woodcliff Lake, NJ and Andover, MA, Raleigh-Durham, NC and New Haven, CT (as well areas in New York, New Hampshire and Boston, MA). For more information please visit magnoliamealsathome.com or contact Kathy Nugent, LCSW at 800-813-4673, ext. 6809.
Browse all CancerCare services
For Head and Neck Cancer
American Head & Neck Society
Head and Neck Cancer Alliance
Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC)
The Oral Cancer Foundation
General Cancer Resources
American Cancer Society
Cancer Support Community
National Cancer Institute