Treatment for head and neck cancer may cause a number of side effects during and after treatment. Some of them can last for weeks, months, or even years into your survivorship. Learn about the possible side effects and how to manage them. As always, if you have side effects or symptoms that are difficult to manage on your own, please talk with your medical team about interventions that may help. 

Please revisit this page frequently, as we are just beginning to build this library of information and resources! 

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Radiation and chemotherapy can damage the glands in your mouth that produce saliva, reducing or eliminating their ability to keep your mouth moisturized. 

Oral Mucositis

Painful sores in your mouth or throat, caused by cancer treatment, can impact your ability to eat, increase your risk of infection, and temporarily reduce your quality of life. 


When the lymph system is damaged by radiation or surgery, lymph fluid cannot flow back to the heart the way that is should.  It collects under the skin, causing swelling.


Nerve damage and nerve pain can be caused by cancer treatments, including radiation, surgery, and some chemotherapy drugs. It often doesn’t appear for years following treatment.


Bone death is caused when radiation therapy damages the blood vessels that supply the jawbone with nutrients and oxygen, causing it to no longer healing itself when faced with infection or trauma, and dies. 


Radiation and/or surgery can cause scarring or damage to the jaw muscle or joint, or nerve damage, resulting to the decrease in the range of motion and making it difficult, painful, or impossible to open your mouth.

Radiation Fibrosis

Increased production of a protein called fibrin can accumulate due to radiation treatment and eventually cause tissue damage, which will result to the shortening of tissues. 


Adjusting to life after laryngectomy surgery is a challenge for survivors. The Laryngectomee Guide, available in several languages, can help make the transition easier.


Maintaining adequate nutrition before, during, and after cancer treatment is critical to your recovery. Get tips and recipes designed for head and neck cancer patients here!