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Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer with Occult Primary Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Treatment Option Overview

There are different types of treatment for patients with metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary.

Different types of treatment are available for patients with metastatic squamous neck cancer with occult primary. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

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Two types of standard treatment are used:

Surgery

Surgery may include neck dissection. There are different types of neck dissection, based on the amount of tissue that is removed.

  • Radical neck dissection: Surgery to remove tissues in one or both sides of the neck between the jawbone and the collarbone, including the following:
    • All lymph nodes.
    • The jugular vein.
    • Muscles and nerves that are used for face, neck, and shoulder movement, speech, and swallowing.
    The patient may need physical therapy of the throat, neck, shoulder, and/or arm after radical neck dissection. Radical neck dissection may be used when cancer has spread widely in the neck.
  • Modified radical neck dissection: Surgery to remove all the lymph nodes in one or both sides of the neck without removing the neck muscles. The nerves and/or the jugular vein may be removed.
  • Partial neck dissection: Surgery to remove some of the lymph nodes in the neck. This is also called selective neck dissection.

Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of surgery, some patients may be given radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy. External radiation therapy uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer. Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.

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