Center for Head and Neck Cancer


At Penn Medicine's Center for Head and Neck Cancer, we perform twice as many head and neck cancer procedures than any other hospital in the region. By putting our experience to work, we offer you the best possible treatment outcomes.

If you are diagnosed with a head and neck cancer, or concerned about head and neck cancer, it's important to have the best team of experts available. U.S. News & World Report ranked Penn Medicine one of the highest in the region for treatment of ear, nose, and throat disorders. In addition, our hospital is ranked seventh in the entire country for Best Hospitals: Ear, Nose and Throat.

Performing Leading-Edge Techniques

Our team is at the forefront in a number of areas, all of which can make a difference today and in the future. Penn established the world's first TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) program. TORS is a minimally invasive, robotically-assisted, surgical approach to removing tumors of the mouth, throat, and voice box. It dramatically improves the treatment of head and neck cancers. Using this approach, tumors can be completely removed while preserving speech, swallowing, and other key functions, thus maintaining quality of life.

We also offer particular expertise in using non-surgical approaches, such as radiation therapy alone or combined with chemotherapy. Depending on the extent of the initial cancer, non-surgical approaches may be the best way to save the voice box and cure the cancer.

Conditions We Treat

We offer dedicated services for those with particular types of head and neck cancer including:

Thyroid Cancer- Our Center for Head and Neck Cancer has one of the largest thyroid cancer programs on the east coast, performing twice as many thyroid operations and three times as many parathyroid operations as other area hospitals. We provide comprehensive evaluation as well as integrated medical and surgical management for individuals with thyroid cancer. Techniques offered include minimally invasive ultrasound-guided needle biopsy of the thyroid and state-of-the-art imaging using such advanced technology as positron emission tomography (PET).

Laryngeal Cancer-The key to successful management of laryngeal or voice box cancer is a multidisciplinary team approach. Our team allows us to offer advanced surgical and non-surgical approaches to preserve the voice box. Our techniques include minimally invasive laser surgery, performed through the mouth using endoscopy, and supracricoid partial laryngectomy, which preserves speech, breathing, and swallowing without a permanent tracheostomy.

Cranial Base Tumors- Tumors that arise at the base of the skull create unique treatment challenges. Recent advances in surgical techniques, which combine microscopic neurotologic surgery, neurosurgery, head and neck surgery, and reconstructive surgery permit the removal and control of tumors previously considered inoperable. Our approach, which minimizes external incisions, aids in quicker recovery, less pain, and improved cosmetic outcome. Penn's Center for Cranial Base Surgery provides special diagnostic and surgical expertise in tumors affecting the base of the skull and brain. Other techniques employed during cranial base cancer treatment and surgery include:

  • Neurophysiological monitoring to provide real-time information about brain and nerve function resulting in increased safety and decreased length of surgery
  • The use of microcatheters and angiography to improve the ability to see vessels during surgery and thus, reduce blood loss
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
  • Functional MRI
  • Thin-cut computerized tomography (CT)
  • Three-dimensional CT angiography
  • Cerebral blood flow studies
  • Super selective angiography for precise understanding of the location and size of cranial base tumors, critical to treatment planning

Shaping the Future of Cancer Care

Building on our history of breakthrough research findings, lab-based efforts are underway to develop therapies for those with head and neck cancer to improve outcomes and quality of life.

Our research efforts include:

  • Quality of life following the treatment of head and neck cancer
  • Minimally invasive cranial base surgery
  • The role of PET/CT in management of head and neck cancer
  • Intra-tumoral and lymphatic injectable chemotherapy for head and neck cancer
  • Targeted gene and molecular therapy for head and neck cancer
  • Molecular based strategies for radiation and chemotherapy sensitization
  • Image-guided and minimally invasive sinus and skull base surgery
  • Robotic head and neck and skull base surgery
  • Photodynamic therapy of pre-malignant oral cavity lesions
  • Multi-modality treatment of head and neck cancer

Additionally, our Tobacco Use Research Center's (TTURC) mission is to translate discoveries in basic neuroscience, pharmacology, genetics, and behavioral science to improve treatment for nicotine dependence.