Head and neck cancer

CISS relies strongly in its evaluations below on impartial analyses by the International Cochrane Collaboration and the British Medical Journal’s Clinical Evidence Group – two groups of researchers who specialise in Evidence Based Medicine.

Conventional medicine supports the paradigm that the tumour is the first stage of cancer, therefore, treating and removing the tumour should cure the cancer. Unfortunately statistics will show this is rarely the case. Conventional medicine also advocates treatment should only be used if supported by appropriate clinical trials showing efficacy. In fact, evidence based medicine suggests that the only reliable evidence needs to come from properly run randomised controlled trials (RCTs). Again, with conventional cancer treatment, this is generally not the case.

The following is based on the conventional cancer paradigm.

Head and neck cancers are cancers that start in the tissues and organs of the head and neck. They include cancers of the larynx (voice box), throat, lips, mouth, nose, and salivary glands.

Most types of head and neck cancer begin in squamous cells that line the moist surfaces inside the head and neck (for example: the mouth, nose and throat). (National Cancer Institute)

Head and neck cancers include but are not limited to oral cancer, pharyngeal cancer, salivary gland cancer, laryngeal cancer, and nasal or paranasal sinus cancer.

Risks: Tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, and infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) increase the risk of many types of head and neck cancers. (National Cancer Institute)

Signs and Symptoms: Symptoms depend upon the location of the tumour in the head or neck.

Symptoms of head and neck cancers can be as follows:

  1. Oral cancer
    1. Mouth pain or pain on swallowing
    2. A persistent sore or swelling in the mouth or jaw
    3. Unusual bleeding or numbness in the mouth
    4. White patches (leucoplakia) or red patches (erythroplakia) on your gums, tongue or mouth
    5. Changes in speech or difficulty in pronouncing words
    6. Difficulty chewing or swallowing food
    7. Weight loss
    8. A lump in your neck
    9. Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit
  2. Pharyngeal cancer
    1. Throat pain or difficulty swallowing
    2. A persistent sore throat or cough
    3. Coughing up bloody phlegm
    4. Bad breath
    5. Weight loss
    6. Voice changes or hoarseness
    7. Dull pain around the breastbone
    8. Lump in the neck
    9. Pain in the ear
    10. Feeling that your air supply is blocked
    11. Numbness of the face
  3. Salivary gland cancer
    1. Swelling or a lump near the ear, jaw, lip, or inside the mouth
    2. Different appearance on each side of the face or neck
    3. Difficulty swallowing or opening mouth widely
    4. Drooping, numbing or muscle weakness on one side of the face (palsy)
  4. Laryngeal cancer
    1. Swelling or a lump in your neck or throat
    2. A persistent sore throat
    3. A persistent change in the sound of your voice, including hoarseness
    4. Difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing
    5. Constant coughing
    6. Difficulty breathing
    7. Weight loss
  5. Nasal or paranasal sinus cancer
    1. Decreased sense of smell
    2. A persistent blocked nose, particularly in one nostril
    3. Nosebleeds
    4. Excess mucous in the throat or in the back of the nose
    5. Frequent headaches or sinus pressure
    6. Difficulty swallowing
    7. Loose or painful teeth
    8. A lump on / in your face, nose or mouth
    9. Pressure or pain in your ears
    10. A bulging or watery eye
    11. Double vision
    12. Complete or partial loss of eyesight (Australian Cancer Council)

Treatment: The main treatment is surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, these can be used alone or in a combination (Australian Cancer Council).

  1. Surgery – the most common treatment, which usually involves the tumour being removed. Please note: there is little evidence that surgery for cancer has any benefit on increased percentage 5 year survival except in cases where the tumour is in a life threatening position (The efficacy of surgical treatment of cancer, DJ Benjamin).
  2. Radiation – uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. Please note: radiation has been shown to reduce recurrence with many types of cancer but this rarely results in increased survival. (The efficacy of radiotherapy, DJ Benjamin).
  3. Chemotherapy – the use of toxic drugs to kill the cancer cell or stop them from growing. Research by Morgan et al conclude that chemotherapy in head and neck cancers may give only a 2.5% 5 year survival benefit.

The aim of treatment is to remove the tumour, slow its growth, or relieve symptoms by shrinking the tumour and swelling.

The above therapies all come with risks and side effects which should be discussed in detail with your treating physician.

Before deciding on one of these treatments you would benefit from asking your physician three questions:

Question 1: What are my treatment options? – These should include doing nothing.

Question 2: What are the possible outcomes of those options? – including benefits and side effects.

Question 3: How likely is each of the outcomes to occur?

If your doctor or other health practitioner cannot answer these questions, or shows that he or she is not comfortable with you asking these questions, it raises the question as to whether they are practising evidence based medicine and you should consider getting another opinion. 

These three questions can be expanded.

Alternative Cancer Therapies

As mentioned above, conventional medicine supports the paradigm that the tumour is the first stage of cancer; therefore treating and removing the tumour should cure the cancer.

Another paradigm believes that cancer is a systemic disease and the tumour is in fact a late stage symptom, element or manifestation of that disease. Therefore treating the disease should be systemic and wholistic (meaning treating the whole body) and should include the following principles:

  1. Treatment should cause no harm
  2. Treatment should be Wholistic (ie consider the whole person – body, mind, emotions and spirit)
  3. The person with cancer needs to take control of their own health.

This latter paradigm is supported by CISS (See Introduction to CISS).

Alternative cancer therapies are generally consistent with the above principles. In fact those believed to be most effective in controlling cancer – psychotherapy and immunotherapy – also have strong evidence from randomised controlled trials.

There are approximately 200 other alternative cancer therapies that have been shown or anecdotally reported to help a person with cancer have reduced morbidity and mortality. What is important in any cancer treatment is to both understand and believe in your chosen therapy.

There are a few alternative cancer therapies claimed to produce benefits with head and neck cancer. Those claimed to have the most benefits include:

  • Psychotherapy

Although there were no patients with head and neck cancers enrolled in the psychotherapy trials, psychotherapy was found to provide survival benefits in all types of cancers with solid tumours tested, so head and neck cancer would not be expected to be an exception.

  • Immunotherapy

Similarly, although there were not enough head or neck cancer patients among those in the trials of Iscador therapy, patients with most types of cancer showed significant survival benefits from this therapy so those with head and neck cancers would not be expected to have responded differently.

It was estimated that a representative sample (252) of Issels’ patients with late stage cancers, of whom 11 (4.4%) had late stage head and neck cancer, showed a 16.6% five year survival following his treatment and 15% 15 years survival. One of those with head and neck cancer was among those who survived 15 years.

References: Issels, J. Immunotherapy in Progressive Metastatic Cancer – A Fifteen-Year Follow-up. Clinical Trials Journal, August 1970: 357-365 – editorial by Phillips S. Dr Joseph Issels and the Ringberg Klinik. Clinical Trials Journal. August 1970: 355-56.

The above studies, that include RCTs, show that systemic therapies are much more successful than therapies based on the orthodox paradigm.

In Head and Neck cancers, Ralph Moss (Cancer Therapy, The Independent Consumers Guide to Non-Toxic Treatment and Prevention) reports the following alternative therapies have been shown to benefit.

  1. Beta-Carotene – is a natural chemical found in many fruits and vegetables, especially brightly coloured ones like carrots, mangos, papayas and yams. Beta-carotene is a pro vitamin, converted into vitamin A in the human body. Recent research has indicated that it plays an important role in the risk of reducing cancer. Studies have shown:
    1. Tumours took longer to develop in beta-carotene treated mice than in animals that did not get the pro-vitamin.
    2. Even when tumours were well established, beta-carotene enabled the mice to live longer, with or without other treatments.
    3. All tumours disappeared for two months when mice were given radiation in addition to beta-carotene. Only one mouse showed a regrowth of tumour.
    4. Animals which continued to receive beta-carotene lived out their two year life spans, but five out of six of those taken off beta-carotene died within 66 days.

In 1986 scientists designed a study of a toxic drug verses nontoxic beta – carotene as

treatment of leucoplakia. There was an overall response rate of 71% with beta-carotene. Scientists said these results indicated beta-carotene was very useful for pre malignant conditions of the mouth and an excellent agent as a preventative for oral cancer.

At the University of Pavia in Italy, 15 patients were given beta-carotene to prevent recurrences after lung, breast, colon, urinary bladder, and head and neck surgery. They had a longer than expected disease free interval.


Garewal HS, et al. response of oral leucoplakia to beta-carotene. J Clin Oncol.1990;8:1715-20.

Santamaria LA and Santamaria AB. Cancer chemoprevention by supplemental carotenoids and synergism with retinol in mastodynia treatment. Med Oncol Tumour Pharmacother.1990;7:153-67.

  1. Heat Therapy – Heat therapy (hyperthermia) is the scientific use of heat for the treatment of cancer. In the body, externally applied heat acts like an artificially induced fever. Some doctors believe that fever is a natural healing mechanism of the body, stimulating the immune system, while disarming microbes and cancer cells.

For many types of cancer heat therapy increases the chances of controlling the disease by 25 to 35 percent. Promising results have been obtained in cancers of the brain, breast, head and neck area and skin (NCI Cancer Weekly, 5/29/89).

Some scientists have called for a reintegration of fever into conventional therapy. They recognise that prolonged, natural fever enhances the effects of natural body defence proteins.

  1. Phototherapy – is the use of light for the treatment of diseases like cancer. Phototherapy causes the destruction of tumours through the administration of a “photosensitising agent” that is retained in tumours. This relatively harmless substance is then activated by shining a light on the tumour in order to generate cell-killing agents on the spot.

Since 1975, phototherapy has been reported to be effective in treating head and neck tumours that had failed to respond to conventional treatment, including surgery, cryotherapy (cold treatment), chemotherapy, hyperthermia or radiation.

At the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, complete and / or partial remissions were obtained in 11 out of 12 patients with a variety of head and neck cancers, including not just carcinomas of the nasopharynx, palate and uvula, but also AIDS – related Kaposi’s sarcoma in the mouth, head and neck.

In China, cancer of the nose and pharynx is extremely common. Specialists at the First Affiliated Hospital in Changsha are investigating the use of phototherapy for this type of cancer. In studies they used in combination therapy it inhibited cancers up to 70%.


Schweitzer VG. Photodynamic therapy for treatment of head and neck cancer. Otolarngol Haed Ncek Surg.1990;102:225-32.

Zhao SP, et al. Photoradiation therapy of animal tumours and nasaopharyngeal carcinoma. Ann otol Rhinol Laryngol.1990;454-60.

  1. Urea – Urine has been used in medicine almost since the beginning of history. Other than water, the most abundant chemical found in urine is urea. In cancer, urine-derived products have always been surrounded by controversy.

In the 1960’s E.D.Danopoulos, MD of Athens, Greece, a professor of the medical school of Athens, wrote many articles on the use of urea, one of the simplest, least expensive and least toxic substances ever proposed for the treatment of cancer.

In one experiment eight patients with cancer of the eye were successfully treated with Urea.

In another study, 46 out of 47 people with large cancers in or around the eye were treated with local urea injections combined with thorough surgical removal of the growth. The combination treatment was effective in 100% of cases, with the eyelids remaining functional. Cure by conventional medicine is very difficult or nearly impossible.

In another study, nine people with extensive cancers of the conjunctiva (mucous membrane on the inside of the eyelid) were treated by Danopoulos with a local application of urea. Five of these cases also had cancer impinging on the corner of the eye. Eight out of the nine patients were cured. The treatment was ineffective on the ninth person. At least five of these patients would have had their eyeball removed if it hadn’t been for the urea treatment.


Danopoulos ED, et al. Urea in the treatment of epibulbar malignancies. Bt J Ophthalmol.1975;59:282-7.

Danopoulos ED and Danopoulou IE. Effects of urea treatment in combination with curettage in extensive periophthalmic malignancies. Ophthalmologica.1979;179:52-61.

Danopoulos ED, et al. Effects of urea treatment in malignancies of the conjunctiva and cornea. Ophthalmologica.1979;178:198-203.

  1. Vitamin A – Vitamin A was the first vitamin to be isolated and defined. Evidence for a link between vitamin A deficiency and cancer goes back over 60 years. In 1963, vitamin A was first shown to cure and prevent a condition called leucoplakia – white warty patches inside the mouth that often precede cancer.

Dutch scientists have studied the blood levels of vitamin A in 86 patients with cancer of the head and neck. Some of these patients had tumours at other sites as well. Thirty one percent of the patients with just head and neck cancers had low serum levels of vitamin A. But 60 percent of those with two kinds of cancers had low levels. About two thirds of all these cancer patients had low beta-carotene levels. Scientists concluded that low Vitamin A levels play a role in causing second tumours of the head or neck and should be given supplements to prevent a second tumour from forming.

In 1985, Dr. WK. Hong of the Head, Neck and Thoracic Oncology department at the M.D. Anderson Cancer centre proposed the use of Accutane (a variant of vitamin A) in treating head and neck cancer. He reported positive results using Accutane. 103 patients were disease free after receiving standard treatments of surgery and / or radiotherapy. They were then divided into two groups, one to receive Accutane for twelve months, the other to receive a sugar pill (placebo) for twelve months.

The Accutane group had significantly fewer second primary tumours. After 32 months only 4% had second primary tumours in the Accutane group compared to 24% in the placebo group. Some of those in the placebo group had multiple cancers reappear.


De Vries N and Snow G. relationship of vitamins A and E and beta-carotene serum levels to head and neck cancer patients with and without second primary tumours. European Archives of Otorhinolaryngol. 1990;247:368-370.

Hong WK and Doos WG. Chemoprevention of head and neck cancer. Potential use of retinoids. Otolarngol Clin North Am.1985;18:543-9.

Hong WK, et al. Prevention of secondary primary tumours with isotretinoin in squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. N Engl J Med.1990;323:798-801.

If you or someone close to you has just been diagnosed with head or neck cancer, it is important you research and understand your chosen treatment, whether that be conventional, alternative or a mixture of both. For the best results your treatment should include physical, mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual treatment.

If you don’t know where to begin in your journey to wellness then we suggest you read Where To Start. This provides an introduction to the alternative approach to treating cancer and also information about some evidenced based alternative cancer treatments.


Show Buttons
Hide Buttons