Head and Neck Cancer Program

You want more than head and neck cancer treatment. And we’re delivering for you.

At University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, our highly experienced physicians and staff are dedicated to taking care of you, not just your cancer. As part of a nationally recognized cancer center, our team focuses on every aspect of head and neck cancer, including what your life will be like when your treatment is complete. Our clinicians are also top researchers, finding new and innovative treatments and therapies, as well as what it takes to get you back to your life. We are on the leading edge of head and neck research and quality-of-life issues, always searching for ways to make the best cancer treatments even better.

Services That Set Us Apart

  • Experts focused only on head and neck cancers. Our team of specialists focuses not just on head and neck cancers, but on your type of head and neck cancer. Because our specialists concentrate only on head and neck cancer, they understand the disease and know about the most recent treatment option—from innovative surgeries to chemotherapy to radiation therapy.
  • Unique surgical options. Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa offers unique surgical procedures for head and neck cancer patients like trans-oral robotic surgery (TORS) to remove throat tumors. TORS offers shorter stays in the hospital, faster recovery, and fewer complications compared to standard surgery.
  • One stop for all surgery. Our surgeons also are trained in reconstruction. Not only do they remove tumors, but they offer reconstructive plastic surgery to help you get back to your normal self. Whenever possible, we try to do both surgeries in one visit.
  • Survivorship clinic. Holden offers a head and neck cancer survivor clinic to help you transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor. 
  • Quality of life expertise. We understand that as a head and neck cancer patient, you may have side effects from treatments that can change the quality of your life—from how you eat and drink to how you speak to how you kiss a loved one. We have been studying these challenges and offering solutions for decades.
  • Innovative clinical trials. We not only offer access to the most recent treatment methods and therapies, but our physicians are also head and neck cancer researchers, placing them at the forefront of the latest breakthroughs in head and neck cancer.
  • New infusion suite just for you. Our infusion suite was designed with patient input to create a comfortable, welcoming environment. Take our virtual tour.

Cancer Care with You in Mind

Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only institution in Iowa to hold the prestigious designation of Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This means we are recognized among the leading cancer centers in the United States. NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers are rated in the top 4 percent of the approximately 1,500 cancer centers in the United States. A study published in the July 2015 issue of the journal Cancer showed that patients treated at NCI-designated cancer centers have better survival outcomes than patients treated at non-NCI designated cancer centers.

To be considered a "comprehensive" center means our teams have expertise in clinical, laboratory, and population-based research. Our doctors and staff are on top of the newest developments in cancer research, treatment, and diagnosis.

In other words, "comprehensive" cancer care means our team of experts will design a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. When it comes to treating cancer, we don’t believe in "one size fits all."

Our multidisciplinary team is ready to offer all of the services you need for your head and neck cancer.

Team-Based Approach

We bring experts from different fields of medicine to work together as a team called a multidisciplinary oncology group. Because there are many options for head and neck cancer patients, our team meets regularly to discuss the best course of treatment and works together to design the best personalized plan for every patient. The team includes head and neck surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, social workers, imaging specialists, pathologists, pharmacists, nurses, laboratory-based scientists, and our survivorship clinical team. Our team of specialists focuses not just on head and neck cancer, but on your head and neck cancer.

The Power of Clinical Trials

A clinical trial is where research meets patient care. A great deal of research is done behind the scenes in laboratories, long before a clinical trial can even begin. Clinical trials are research studies that test the latest treatments and drugs that are not yet available to the public. These new treatments have the potential to improve your quality of life or increase your chances of survival.

For example, one of our studies involves an investigational drug to see if it can reduce mouth pain and ulcers that can be a side effect of mouth cancer treatments. Another one of our clinical trials is exploring the use of electrical nerve stimulation, in combination with current treatments, to reduce pain and improve function for patients who are getting chemotherapy and radiation therapy for head and neck cancer.

See a full list and learn more about clinical trials at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Support Our Mission

Our work is made possible in part by the support of donors through charitable giving. Friends of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center can become partners in the effort to control and ultimately cure cancer. Learn how you can help us make a difference for cancer patients.

Facts About Head and Neck Cancer

  • Holden specialists care for more than 350 head and neck cancer patients every year.
  • Survival rates for head and neck cancer have improved 55-66 percent from 1992.
  • There has been a link to some head and neck cancer and Human Pappilomavirus (HPV).
  • About 85 percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use.
  • There are many types of head and neck cancer :
    • Oral (or pharyngeal) cancer
    • Salivary gland cancer
    • Throat cancer
    • Sinus and nasal cavity cancer

Patient Stories

Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Team (HNC MOG)