Is head and neck cancer treatable?

A patient’s prognosis depends on how advanced the cancer is at the time of presentation, so the earlier they present, the better the prognosis. For those patients that notice some subtle changes in their voice or some prolonged raspiness or husky quality of the voice, many times the cancer is at an early stage — what we call a T-1 tumor. Those have an excellent prognosis and would be considered Stage 1.

If the cancer spreads locally from a tonsil to the skull base, or surrounding the great vessels such as the carotid artery, or some other deep tissue, the prognosis is worse. The worst prognosis is if the cancer has regionally spread to lymph nodes in the neck and invaded vascular and other critical neural and muscular structures, or if it's in a giant lymph node. So really, the earlier it’s discovered, the better, though it is treatable. Patients simply do better when they're in earlier stage of presentation.