Oral, Head & Neck Cancer


Oral, head and neck cancers, which include cancers of the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat and lymph nodes in the neck, account for approximately 3 percent of all malignancies in the United States.

Since many people are not familiar with the signs and symptoms of these cancers, about 50 percent of these cases are found in late stages. Overall incidence began decreasing 30 years ago and stabilized in 2003, whereas overall mortality rates have steadily declined. Notably, the incidence of head and neck cancer in African Americans has declined over the past two decades and is now lower than that in whites.

Most begin in the moist tissues that line the mouth, nose and throat. Symptoms may include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, trouble swallowing or a change or hoarseness in the voice.

Using tobacco or alcohol increases your risk. In fact, 75 percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use, including smoking and smokeless tobacco. Additionally, infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) causes more than half of all cases of oropharyngeal cancer. While there are no standard or routine screening tests for head and neck cancers, if detected early, these cancers are often curable.

April is head and neck cancer awareness month

Most oral, head and neck cancers can be prevented. At least 75 percent of these diseases are caused by alcohol and tobacco, which are the two most important risk factors. Poor oral hygiene and missing teeth are risk factors for cancers of the oral cavity, and men are affected about twice as more as women with oral cancer. However, there is also a substantial focus on educating younger people. The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that the quickest growing segment of the oral cancer population is young, healthy, non-smokers due to the connection to the human papillomavirus (HPV). This means those with HPV need to know their risks and the warning signs for the disease.


Signs of oral, head and neck cancer may include a mouth sore that doesn’t heal, sore throat, lumps or patches in the mouth, trouble swallowing, changes in voice, or a lump in the neck. Symptoms also may affect specific areas of the head and neck and may include oral cavities, pharynx, larynx, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavities, and the salivary glands. It is important to check with your doctor or dentist if you experience any of these symptoms.



The clinician should review the social, familial, and medical history and should document risk behaviors (tobacco and alcohol usage), a history of head and neck radiotherapy, familial history of head and neck cancer, and a personal history of cancer. Patients over 40 years of age should be considered at a higher risk for oral cancer.




New York-native Joe Ferrer was going about his normal daily shaving routine in July 2015 when he noticed a lump on his throat that made him pause. As a spinal cancer survivor, he knew that listening to his gut instinct about his health was important in detecting his previous disease early, so he brought the lump to his doctor’s attention the same day he found it.

Head and Neck


Disease site teams, or multidisciplinary care teams, are specialists from each diagnostic, treatment and supportive care discipline working together in the same facility where state-of-the-art cancer treatment is given, and relevant research is conducted.


Clinical trials are research studies that involve human beings in order to test new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose or treat diseases. A drug must be part of a clinical trial before the FDA will approve it to be put on the market. Oncology clinical trials are conducted in order to test new drugs or a new combination of drug treatments, new surgery and radiation therapies and new medical devices.

Every cancer center patient is evaluated for participation in a clinical trial. Those who meet the criteria to participate in clinical research receive a standard of care treatment, but with the added benefit of a trial that may enhance their outcomes.

If interested in volunteering to participate in a clinical research trial, or if you have concerns about the conduct of clinical research, please contact the Clinical Research office at (225) 215-1353, or by email at

There are currently no active esophageal clinical trials. Please check back as we are continuously opening new studies.

Trial Number: Alliance A091404

Title: A Phase II Study of Enzalutamide (NSC#766085) for Patients with Androgen Receptor Positive Salivary Cancers

Purpose: This study will test any good and bad effects of the study drug called Enzalutamide. Enzalutamide could shrink the cancer but it could also cause side effects. Researchers hope to learn if the study drug will shrink the cancer by at least 30% compared to its present size, in at least 1 out of 5 patients. Enzalutamide is not FDA approved to treat salivary gland cancer, but it has already been FDA-approved to treat other cancers.

Physicians: Drs. Bryan Bienvenu, Vince Cataldo, David Hanson, Kellie Schmeeckle, Joseph Shows, Derrick Spell, Siva Yadlapati and Lauren Zatarain; James Carinder and Jack Saux; Robert GambleNaveed Khan, and Harry McGaw

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