Head and Neck Cancer

Approximately 3-4% of cancers diagnosed in the United States are head and neck cancers (including oral cancer). Cancer can start in any place in the body and is named for the place in the body that it starts. When cancer spreads from a primary site to another site in the body that is known as metastasis. Cancer that starts in the head and neck typically begins in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat).

This year, an estimated 63,030 people (46,290 men and 16,740 women) will develop head and neck cancer. While younger people can develop the disease, most people are over age 50 when they are diagnosed and sadly, 13,360 deaths (9,940 men and 3,420 women) from head and neck cancer will occur this year.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Head and neck cancer is preventable. The main risk factors for head and neck cancer include:

  • Tobacco use (smoking and smokeless)
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Potential exposure to HPV
  • Male gender
  • Patients age 55 and older

It is important to not use tobacco products (smoking or smokeless) and abstain from alcohol to help prevent head and neck cancer. Over a lifetime, 75-80% of adults will likely be exposed to the human papilloma virus (HPV) and it is important to know this exposure to HPV can also put a person at risk for developing head and neck cancer. There is now a vaccine available for HPV, which is recommended for youth and young adults ages 9-26. This vaccine could prevent further HPV-related head and neck cancers for future generations so it is important to talk your child’s doctor about this immunization.

Quit Smoking Resources

1-800-QUIT-NOW http://www.in.gov/quitline/ or http://www.quitnowindiana.com/
Nicotine Dependence Program at Community Health Network

Common Head and Neck Cancers

Common cancers of the head and neck include:

  • Oral cavity cancer - starts in the mouth
  • Oropharyngeal cancer – starts in back of the mouth or the throat
  • Nasal cavity cancer – starts in the opening behind the nose, a space that runs along the top of the roof of the mouth and then turns downward to join the back of the mouth and the throat
  • Paranasal sinus cancer – starts in the openings around or near the nose called sinuses
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer – starts in the upper part of the throat behind the nose
  • Laryngeal cancer – starts in the voice box
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer – starts in the lower part of the throat beside and behind the voice box

Diagnosis and Treatment

Using a multidisciplinary team-based approach through Community Cancer Center North and affiliation with MD Anderson Cancer Network®, patients with head and neck cancer can receive integrated services including surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, nursing, speech and language pathology, dietary, and social work for comprehensive evaluation and treatment of their cancer. Patients and their families can expect to receive a patient-centered comprehensive evaluation by all appropriate members of the treatment team.

Once diagnosis is determined, treatment plans for head and neck cancer may include a combination of surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy or immunotherapy depending on the type of cancer, tumor size and stage, tumor location, and the patient’s overall health. At Community Health Network, your multidisciplinary team will work with you and your family to ensure you are receiving the best treatment plan possible.

Head and Neck Cancers Treated at Community
  • Throat cancer 
  • Larynx cancer
  • Oral cavity cancer 
  • Tongue cancer
  • Tonsil cancer 
  • Cancer of the mandible and maxilla (jaw cancer)
  • HPV-related head and neck cancer 
  • Salivary gland tumors
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Parathyroid cancer
  • Melanomas of the head and neck 
  • Scalp cancer
  • Skin cancer of the head, neck and face
Surgical Treatment Approaches

Surgical treatment approaches may include:

  • Comprehensive surgical management of head and neck tumors and malignancies
  • Total or partial laryngectomy
  • Total or partial glossectomy
  • Oral cavity cancer resection
  • Thyroidectomy
  • Parathyroidectomy
  • Parotidectomy 
  • Reconstructive surgery including microvascular techniques and free tissue transfer
  • Sentinel lymph node biopsy

Our Team

John Goldenberg, MD

John Goldenberg, MD - Head and neck cancer specialistDr. John Goldenberg is a head and neck oncology and microvascular surgeon as well as an MD Anderson certified physician for patients at Community Health Network. An Indianapolis native, Dr. Goldenberg attended North Central High School, Indiana University and received his medical degree from IU School of Medicine. During his residency at the University of Illinois in Chicago, he served as chief resident of the Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery department. He then completed a fellowship in Head and Neck Oncology and Microvascular Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Since 1998, Dr. Goldenberg has practiced in the Indianapolis community as an otolaryngologist with a focus on head and neck oncology surgery.

Dr. Goldenberg and his wife reside in Carmel and have three sons. He enjoys golf and skiing in his free time.

Lisa White, NP

Lisa White, NP, head and neck cancer nurse practitionerNurse practitioner Lisa White is an integral part of the head and neck oncology multidisciplinary team offering advance practice nursing services to this patient population. Ms. White joined Community Physician Network in 2017. Previously, she worked at IU Health where she spent six years in head and neck oncology and pulmonary/critical care. She has also served as adjunct faculty for the AGACNP program at IU School of Nursing, IUPUI and as a graduate assistant at the University of Indianapolis. Ms. White attended Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia where she completed her BSN in 2009 and her MSN in the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner track in 2011. In addition, she holds a BA in Journalism from Indiana University (2005).

Ms. White lives in Indianapolis with her husband and two young sons. She is an avid runner and also enjoys yoga and skiing in her spare time.

2018 Head and Neck Cancer Screening Results

Head and neck cancer accounts for approximately 4% of all cancers in the United States. These cancers are more than twice as common among men as they are among women. Head and neck cancers are also diagnosed more often among people over age 50 than they are among younger people. Researchers estimated that more than 65,000 men and women in this country would be diagnosed with head and neck cancers in 2017 (www.cancer.gov).

In 2017, approximately 66% (44/66) of the head and neck cancer cases diagnosed at Community Health Network were identified as Stage 3 or 4. Due to the high percentage of patients being diagnosed at a late stage, the Cancer Committee agreed to offer a free Head and Neck Screening with the possibility of a free biopsy, if needed, at all three Indianapolis Cancer Centers.

In 2018, we screened 69 patients with 19 of those patients needing follow-up with an ear, nose and throat physician for general ENT evaluation and one of the patients needing a biopsy. The biopsy was negative for cancer. A radiation oncology nurse called all patients requiring follow-up with an ENT.