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Chemotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer

Chemotherapy (chemo) can be used as a treatment for head and neck cancer. Chemotherapy targets cells that divide quickly. A medical oncologist is the type of doctor that prescribes chemotherapy.

Your care team may give you chemo by:

  • Intravenous (IV) infusion
  • Mouth
  • Injection

At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, we offer a full range of chemo and biologic targeted therapies for people with head and neck cancer. 

Learn more about medical oncology and chemotherapy at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

When Do Doctors Use Chemo to Treat Head and Neck Cancer

Chemotherapy can be used to manage and treat head and neck cancer. 

Chemo might be given alone if the head and neck cancer has spread to other parts of the body, but is often combined with radiation. Chemo combined with radiation treats the tumor directly, and further increases the tumor’s sensitivity radiation. This combination can be given by itself to treat head and neck cancer or after a surgery, depending on the location of the cancer.

Our head and neck cancer team works together to decide the best evidence-based approach to meet your unique needs.

What Types of Chemotherapy Treat Head and Neck Cancer

The types of chemotherapy used to treat Head and Neck Cancer include:

  • Cisplatin
  • Carboplatin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Docetaxel
  • Fluorouracil
  • Cetuximab

Common Side Effects of Chemo

Side effects of chemotherapy can vary from person to person.

Common side effects include:

  • Bone marrow suppression
  • Digestive discomfort (nausea and vomiting)
  • Fatigue
  • Temporary hair loss

Learn more about managing side effects of chemotherapy.

Why Choose to Have Chemo at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in western Pennsylvania recognized by the National Cancer Institute.

This means you have access to clinical trials of the latest head and neck cancer drugs and treatments.

Contact Us About Head and Neck Cancer

To learn more about Head and Neck Cancer or to make an appointment, you can:

cancer patient on computer

What to Expect During Chemo Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer

Your treatment may take place at a hospital, outpatient care center, doctor's office, or at home. The length of each chemo treatment will depend on the type of drugs and treatment.

Learn more from UPMC HealthBeat