Head and neck cancer is cancer that starts in or near the mouth, larynx, sinuses, nose, or throat. Most of the time, it begins in the cells that cover these organs. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in the head and neck.
Types of Head and Neck Cancer
Depending on where the disease begins, there are the following types of head and neck cancer.
- Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer: The voice box is another name for the larynx. This tube-shaped organ located in the neck is crucial for breathing, speaking, and swallowing.
- Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancer: It is the area behind the nose where air travels to the pharynx and throat. The paranasal sinuses are the spaces around the nose filled with air.
- Nasopharyngeal Cancer: Cancer begins in the tissues just behind the nose, at the point where the nose joins the throat (the nasopharynx).
- Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer: The oral cavity comprises the mouth and tongue. The oropharynx is a portion of the pharynx, extending from the oral cavity and nasopharynx in front and the larynx and hypopharynx in back.
- Salivary Gland Cancer: The salivary gland is responsible for saliva production. Saliva is the fluid that comes from the mouth to keep it moist. It has enzymes in it that start to break down food.
Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer
Symptoms of head and neck cancer are:
- A sore in the mouth or tongue that does not get better
- A white or red spot on the gums, tongue, or mouth lining
- A constant sore throat
- Swelling in the jaw, neck, or side of the face
- Sinus infections that come back often and don’t get better with antibiotics
- Neck pain that does not go away
- Recurring headaches
- Problems with swallowing
- Chronic earaches
- Breathing and speaking difficultie
Causes of Head and Neck Cancer
Factors that increase the risk of head and neck cancer are:
- Head and neck cancers are more likely to happen if you drink or smoke.
- The human papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted during sexual intercourse, is responsible for approximately 70% of oropharyngeal cancers.
- The sun’s ultraviolet rays, as well as artificial UV rays like tanning beds, are significant contributors to lip cancer.
- Occupational exposures, or being around certain toxic substances at work, can make it more likely to get nasopharyngeal cancer.
- An infection with the Epstein-Barr virus can increase the risk of cancer in the nose, behind the nose, and in the salivary glands.
- Using radiation to treat a disease at its source can cause cancers of the head and neck.
Head and Neck Cancer Diagnosis
Head and neck cancer is diagnosed through the following techniques:
- Endoscopy: In this procedure, the person has general anesthesia, and the tube (endoscope) is inserted through the nose into the throat and esophagus.
- Panoramic Radiograph: A panoramic radiograph is a rotating or panoramic x-ray of the upper and lower jawbones to identify malignancy.
- Bone scan: A radioactive tracer is used in a bone scan to examine the insides of the bones for cancerous cells.
- Biomarker for the Tumor: Your doctor might look for unique genes, proteins, and other factors in a blood sample.
- X-ray/Barium Swallow: During this procedure, the patient will drink a solution that contains barium. Then, they will go through a series of x-rays to find any abnormalities in the anatomy of the tissue.
- Positron Emission Tomography (PET) or PET-CT scan: A PET scan and a CT scan is referred to as PET-CT scan.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): It uses magnetic fields to take pictures of soft tissue, like the tonsils and the base of the tongue.
Treatment of Head and Neck Cancer
Our specialist team at HCG Manavata Cancer Center provides the best head and neck cancer treatment in Nashik. Multiple treatment approaches are available for head and neck cancers, including:
Surgery: The patients should opt for the top head and neck cancer surgeons in Nashik, Maharashtra, to undergo surgery. Surgeons may cut out the tumor and some healthy tissue around it. Head and neck surgery can change how a person looks and how well they can chew, talk, and swallow. Because of these things, patients may need speech therapy and reconstructive surgery after surgery.
Radiation Therapy: It involves using high-energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy can cause side effects like sores or irritation, trouble swallowing or tasting, less saliva, less appetite, and feeling sick.
Chemotherapy: It refers to the use of anti-cancer medications to eliminate cancer cells throughout the body. It is more often used for head and neck cancers that are in an advanced stage. Some of the side effects include mouth sores, loss of appetite, feeling sick, throwing up, feeling tired, getting a rash, having joint pain, and losing hair.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is there a connection between HPV infection and cancer of the head and neck?
Human papillomavirus infection is responsible for almost 10,000 cases of cancer each year. In addition, some people who don’t have a smoking history can acquire throat cancer from a strain of HPV that is typically passed on through oral sexual contact.
2. Can the cancer in my head or neck region come back?
Years or even decades after treatment, cancer can come back, or new cancer can form. People should keep up with their regular checkups after their last cancer treatment.
3. How does the doctor evaluate the stage of my head and neck cancer?
Blood tests and other spectroscopic methods can tell the head and neck cancer stage. Afterwards, clinicians employ the TNM stage system:
- T: Tumor volume and location
- N: Number of sensitive lymph nodes
- M: Cancerous tissue metastasis (spread)
4. Among various head and neck cancers, which ones have the best prognosis?
Papillary and follicular thyroid cancers have the best prognosis of all head and neck cancers. Patients with cancer that has not spread have high chances of survival. The prognosis for HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers is also excellent. Early-stage tumors have the best chance of being cured.