Head and Neck Cancer

Head and Neck Cancer Specialty Care

Treating Difficult Cancers

No head and neck cancer is the same and a diagnosis affects each person differently. Developing an effective treatment plan requires input from a variety of specialists.

Your head and neck cancer team is comprised of specialists who review your specific situation and work together to determine the most appropriate treatment plan, tailored to you.

Head and Neck Cancer Specialty Care at UPMC CancerCenter brings together experts in:

Conditions We Treat

Head and Neck Cancer Specialty Care experts have particular expertise in the treatment of:


Comprehensive treatment planning

Head and Neck Cancer Specialty Care at UPMC CancerCenter brings together a multidisciplinary team of leading experts in:

Diagnostic and screening services

UPMC's Department of Pathology, one of the leading programs in the country, is an integral part of your multidisciplinary team.

To assist the treatment team in determining the best course for your treatment, pathology experts employ comprehensive, state-of-the-art diagnostic evaluations:

  • Detailed radiographic evaluation
  • Endoscopic biopsy
  • Needle biopsy

Surgical services

Head and Neck Cancer Specialty Care surgeons use minimally-invasive, endoscopic-assisted surgical techniques to remove tumors of the head and neck when appropriate. Using camera-guided technology, the surgeon is able to spare healthy surrounding tissue when removing the tumor, allowing for a quicker recovery and less post-operative pain. Patients are often discharged within a few days.

Medical oncology services

Our medical oncologists specialize in head and neck cancers, and offer a full range of chemotherapy and biologic targeted therapies for all types and stages of cancer.

You have access to the latest therapies and clinical trials through our collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), western Pennsylvania's only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

When appropriate, head and neck cancer patients are placed on a Clinical Pathway, a disease-specific treatment strategy developed by UPMC CancerCenter physicians to ensure that all patients receive the same quality, evidence-based care. Each Pathway combines innovative and promising clinical trial options with the best standard of care therapies. Ongoing review by the clinical team ensures that each Pathway remains to be the best and most effective treatment option available.

Radiation therapy

Patients have access to the largest variety of advanced radiation planning and delivery systems available in western Pennsylvania.

Swallowing Disorder Center

Head and Neck Cancer Specialty Care experts work closely with experts from the UPMC Swallowing Disorders Center, which includes a multidisciplinary team of ear, nose, and throat specialists (otolaryngologists) and speech-language pathologists who specialize in evaluating and treating swallowing disorders.

Post-treatment follow up and surveillance

Once you have a head and neck cancer, you are at an increased risk for developing a second cancer. Our experts offer comprehensive surveillance and diagnostic imaging to monitor your following your treatment.

Supportive services

What to Expect

Once your head and neck cancer has been staged, typically by your head and neck surgeon, he/she will refer you to Head and Neck Cancer Specialty Care at Hillman Cancer Center in Pittsburgh.

The center's multidisciplinary cancer team will:

Through UPMC CancerCenter's community network, you may be able to receive treatment and follow-up care closer to your home.

To learn more about Head and Neck Cancer Specialty Care, or to schedule an appointment, please call 412-647-2811.

Our Experts

Head and Neck Cancer Specialty Care experts have extensive experience in treating head and neck cancers.

Medical oncologists

Otolaryngologists/head and neck surgeons

Cranial Base Surgeons

Thyroid/parathyroid Surgeons

Radiation oncologists

Swallowing Disorders Center

  • Bridget Hathaway, MD — Contact
  • Libby Smith, DO — Contact
  • Roxann Diez Gross, PhD, SLP-CCC
  • Danielle Columbe, MS, SLP-CCC
  • Tamara Wasserman-Wincko, MS, SLP-CCC

Other Members of Our Team

Experts Specialize in
Pain management physicians different techniques to relieve, reduce, or manage chronic pain during and after your treatment
Palliative care therapists relief of the symptoms and stress caused by advanced cancer to improve your quality of life
Pathologists the diagnosis of cancer by examining cells in the organs, tissues, or bodily fluids
Radiologists imaging techniques, such as x-rays, and CT, MRI, and PET scans, to diagnose and treat cancer

Areas of Specialized Treatment for Lung Cancer

Stage III Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

Stage III non-small-cell lung cancer is lung cancer in the lymph nodes along the major tracheobronchial airways or other structures of the chest. Tumors that have spread to the other lung or elsewhere in the body are not considered stage III non-small-cell lung cancer.

The management of this condition requires close coordination between surgical, radiation oncology, and medical oncology physicians to determine the most effective treatment plan.

Medical pulmonary physicians also are involved in the decision-making and your care during and after treatment.

The interaction and multidisciplinary decision-making between the lung cancer specialists at the Lung Cancer Program offers you an important advantage.

You're are afforded the best available treatments and opportunities to participate in promising clinical trials to expand treatment options.

Locally Advanced Lung Cancer

Treating people with locally advanced lung cancer can be challenging because the cancer has invaded the tissues and lymph nodes surrounding the lung. In some cases, tumors may obstruct airways or result in accumulation of fluid, making it difficult for the person to breathe.

Thoracic surgeons at the Lung Cancer Program use endoscopic approaches to relieve airway obstruction and airway bleeding caused by lung cancers.

Using laser and endobronchial stenting techniques, many people may benefit from these procedures.

Small-Cell Lung Cancer

Small-cell lung cancer represents 15 percent of all lung cancers and is almost always related to cigarette smoke exposure. It is often difficult to treat because it tends to grow and spread more quickly than non-small-cell lung cancer.

Although small-cell lung cancer is highly responsive to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, recurrence rates remain high.

To combat these challenges, the Lung Cancer Program offers people multimodality therapies and access to cancer clinical trials, which are continuously investigating novel therapeutics to make progress in the fight against small-cell lung cancer.


Mesothelioma is a malignant disease of the pleural and peritoneal cavities thought to be caused by inhaled asbestos exposure in the environment. Symptoms often include shortness of breath and chest pain.

Mesothelioma is not easily treated with conventional therapies. The Lung Cancer Program offers a multimodality treatment program that incorporates surgical, chemotherapy, and radiation therapies for mesothelioma patients with localized disease.

To improve quality of life and prolong survival, surgical experts at the center are pioneering a surgical and intraoperative chemoperfusion treatment that involves a pleurectomy, a less morbid surgical approach.