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Treatment for Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Head and Neck

The Penn Center for Head and Neck Cancer are leaders in treating squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, having pioneered many of the latest surgical and non-surgical techniques.

Treatment options offered include:

Cancers of the head and neck are more common today than ever due to the association with the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, making up 50,000 new cases a year in the United States. Squamous cell carcinoma makes up about 90 percent of these types of cancers.

Firstline treatment for squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck is usually TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS). Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used following surgery depending on the diagnosis and stage of cancer. 

TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) offers a minimally invasive surgical option. The benefit of surgery is to reduce the dose and/or eliminate the need for radiation therapy in the treatment of the cancer. The surgery will involve removal of the tumor, as well as removal of lymph nodes from certain areas of the neck if necessary. 

Treatment for Squamous Cell Carcinoma with HPV and Non-HPV Association

Treatment may be different for HPV associated squamous cell carcinoma and non-HPV associated squamous cell carcinoma. Those with HPV positive cancer have a higher survival rate because they are generally more responsive to treatment.

HPV associated squamous cell carcinoma 

Treatment may be a combination of the following depending on the stage of cancer:

  • TORS 
  • TORS with radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy
  • Radiation and chemotherapy (for those who are not a candidate for TORS)

Non-HPV associated squamous cell carcinoma

Individuals with this type of cancer typically require a combination of treatment approaches and are less responsive to treatment overall in comparison to tumors that are associated with HPV. Treatment may include:

  • TORS 
  • TORS with radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy
  • Radiation and chemotherapy (for those who are not a candidate for TORS)