- What is head and neck cancer?  
- How does cancer arise?
- What causes head and neck cancer?  
- Can cancer of the head and neck be cured?  
- Symptoms of head and neck cancer  
- Referral to a specialist
- Diagnosis of head and neck cancer  
- Stage and grade of cancer  
- Treatment for head and neck cancer  
- Follow-up after treatment  
- Clinical trials



Chemotherapy uses anticancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. These drugs reach cancer cells through the bloodstream. The most common drugs used in the treatment of head and neck cancer are cisplatin and fluorouracil (5-FU). Taxol (paclitaxel) or Taxotere (docitaxel) may be used in clinical trials. Chemotherapy may be given by injection into a vein or by tablets.

There are several situations in which chemotherapy may be used.

  • If a patient has a tumour that is unlikely to be cured by radiotherapy alone, chemotherapy may be used to reduce the size of the tumour before radiotherapy or to try to avoid the need for surgery.
  • Chemotherapy may be given at the same time as radiotherapy (known as concomitant chemo-radiotherapy).
  • Chemotherapy may be used to treat cancers that have spread beyond the original site of the tumour, or returned following surgery and/or radiotherapy.