University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute | UCCI

Contact and Appointments: (513) 475-8500

Treatment & Services

Diagnosing Head and Neck Cancer

At the UC Cancer Institute Head and Neck Cancer Center, we are applying the latest diagnostic tools to study tumors. For example, we use single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT/CT) to create clear images of the tumor, with more accurate information about the location and type of tumor cells. We then can take a sentinel lymph node biopsy (tumor sample) of melanoma (skin cancer) or early-stage tongue or throat cancer to learn more about the tumor and how best to treat it.

Our experts also have extensive experience in viewing tumors using imaging technology such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET).

In many cases, we take biopsies (small samples of a tumor), to confirm whether or not cells are cancerous and to determine the best possible treatment course.

Treating Head and Neck Cancer

At the Head and Neck Cancer Center, we offer you a coordinated treatment plan that may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of these treatments.

Our expertise is unmatched in the region for a number of surgical procedures:

  • Trans-oral robotic surgery for head and neck cancer. We are the only medical center in the area to use this minimally invasive technique to remove tumors of the tonsil, tongue or voice box. We have three robotic surgery specialists who can remove the tumor without major surgery to the face and jawbone. The robotic approach causes less pain and allows a shorter hospital stay and a quicker return to normal activities.
  • Microvascular reconstruction. After tumor removal from the jaw or tongue, we have two surgical specialists who can perform microvascular reconstruction to remake your jaw using a piece of bone from another part of your body. No one else in the Greater Cincinnati area has this capability.
  • Minimally invasive endoscopic tumor removal. Using small scopes with tiny cameras and cutting instruments, we can remove tumors from the tongue, thyroid, skull base and sinus cavities. These procedures greatly reduce the size of incisions, minimize blood loss and reduce hospitalization to an overnight stay.
  • Minimally invasive thyroidectomy procedures. We insert a scope through a small incision to remove all or part of the thyroid gland in the front of the neck.
  • Robotic surgery for early throat cancer. Throat cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) are on the rise among younger people, and our cancer center offers robotic surgery to remove these cancers at an early stage. Treatment for HPV cancers also can include radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
  • Embolization for skull base tumor. Our interventional radiologist shuts down the blood supply (embolization) of a skull base tumor to cut off the blood supply to make surgery easier or to help stop life-threatening bleeding.

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for early-stage head and neck cancers can be used if you are not a candidate for surgery or you do not wish to receive surgery. 2-D and 3-D radiation beams can be targeted more precisely from multiple angles to kill cancer cells while minimizing damage to healthy cells. This allows us to provide higher-dose treatments in a shorter span of time, reducing the number of trips you have to make to receive treatments.

Stereotactic radiosurgery, which directs high-powered energy to a small area of the body, can be used if you have a small area where cancer has come back. Despite its name, “radiosurgery” does not involve a surgical procedure or incisions.

Chemotherapy at our Head and Neck Cancer Center includes novel chemotherapy agents not generally available at other cancer treatment facilities in the Greater Cincinnati area. Our oncologists also offer access to the latest medications available through clinical trials.

Tumor-targeted therapies attack certain types of head and neck cancer cells that have mutations and abnormal genes. Because these therapies spare healthy cells, they have fewer side effects.

Rehabilitation begins before treatment starts. From the day of diagnosis, we work to optimize your quality of life and provide the best opportunity to preserve your speech, taste and swallowing, and overall physical appearance.

Personalized Care

We will soon have a nurse navigator who will provide you with a single contact point for scheduling appointments, answering your questions and finding resources within the system to assist you.

As you are receiving treatment, we provide you with pain and symptom management services, plus a number of support services to ease your journey through cancer treatment and recovery:

  • Our head and neck dietitians and speech therapists work closely with you to keep your speech and eating as normal as possible. Our dietitian will help you select soft foods with nutrients to help your body regain strength.
  • If radiation treatment causes you to have lymphedema (swelling due to fluid buildup just beneath the skin), our speech therapists provide a massage technique to lessen the swelling.
  • We hold monthly support groups for people with head and neck cancer.

Clinical Trials

We offer you access to the most current therapies available through clinical trials. For example, we currently have a trial of chemotherapy plus radiation for recurrent head and neck cancer.

Our physicians will talk with you about current trials for which you may be eligible.


Smoking cessation program

Smoking is a major risk factor for head and neck cancers.

If you have tried to quit smoking, you know how hard it can be. Our “Win by Quitting” Smoking Cessation Program is designed to help cigarette smokers quit. It is a six-step program, supervised by a physician, which makes the process of quitting smoking easier on the smoker.

Sessions use both behavior modification techniques and prescription medications, if appropriate. This free program helps you quit over a 12-week period. The program has a quit rate better than 50 percent.

To join this free “Win by Quitting” program, call 513-584-QUIT or 513-584-7848.