Everything You Need To Know About Head and Neck Cancer and How To Be Safe
Everything You Need To Know About Head and Neck Cancer and How To Be Safe

By Malla Reddy Narayana on 12 Dec, 2022

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The phenomenon in which multiple tumours emerge on the head and neck regions of the body is referred to as “head and neck cancer.” Alcohol and cigarette use are the two leading causes of head and neck cancer. These tumours are easily prevented and, if detected early, are also treatable.

What is head and neck cancer?

Multiple tumours that affect the head and neck regions of the body are referred to as “head and neck cancer.” These tumours make up between 3% and 5% of all cancers diagnosed in the US. Men and people over 50 are more likely than others to get head and neck cancer. These malignancies are easily prevented and, if discovered early, are very curable. Alcohol and cigarette use are the two leading causes of head and neck cancer. Another significant risk factor for various head and neck cancers is the human papillomavirus (HPV).

The areas most prone to head and neck cancer include the following:

Mouth/Oral Cavity: Lips, tongue, gums, cheek and lip lining, bottom and top of the mouth, and the area behind the wisdom teeth comprise the oral cavity comprises some of the most cancer-prone areas of the oral cavity.

Salivary Glands: The saliva produced by the salivary glands is what keeps the mouth and throat wet. The primary glands are located close to the jawbone and at the bottom of the mouth.

Sinuses: Sinuses are the voids in the bones that surround the nose.

Nasal Cavity: The nasal cavity is the nose’s hollow interior.

– Tonsils.

– Throat (pharynx) (pharynx).

– Voicebox (larynx) (larynx).

– Ears.

– Lymph nodes (Upper neck region).

What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer?

Because head and neck cancer symptoms are frequently modest and resemble less dangerous illnesses like a cold or sore throat, it can be challenging to detect. These signs consist of the following:

– A wound to the mouth or tongue that does not heal.

– A white or red spot on the tongue, gums, or mouth lining.

– A chronic throat ache.

– Hoarseness.

– Swelling in the side of the face, the neck, or the jaw.

– Antibiotic-resistant sinus infections that frequently occur.

– Persistent neck discomfort

– Recurring headaches

– The teeth on the upper jaw hurt.

– Bleeding in the mouth, via the nose, or through the saliva.

– Difficulty swallowing

– Chronic ear pain.

– Difficulty speaking or breathing

Methods of diagnosis

Successful head and neck cancer treatment depend on early detection. The majority of head and neck malignancies can be quickly found via a physical examination. The healthcare professional will examine one and might recommend diagnostic testing.

These examinations and testing could involve the following

Physical examination: A physical examination to assess the tongue, throat, neck, and nasal and oral canals. Additionally, the doctor may feel lumps on the neck, lips, gums, and cheeks.

Endoscopy: To inspect the voice box, throat, nasal cavity, or any other location where one is experiencing symptoms, the doctor uses an endoscope, a thin, illuminated tube. It is not painful and is done in the office.

– Lab Test: tests in a lab using blood, urine, or other body samples

– Imaging Test: CAT scans, MRIs, PET scans, or head and neck X-rays to provide images of the interior of the head and neck. Which tests will best assess the symptoms will be decided by the doctor.

– Biopsy: The doctor performs a biopsy, removing tissue for a pathologist to examine under a microscope. Cancer can only be accurately diagnosed in this way. Using a local anaesthetic and typically a needle, this might be done at the doctor’s office. Or it could be done in the operating room while one is asleep.

Method of treatment

Identifying the tumour’s stage is the first step in treating head and neck cancer.

Small and locally confined are stage I and stage II tumours that have not yet spread. They are usually treatable.

Cancers that have reached advanced stages viz stage III and IV have a much lower possibility of recovery as they have already migrated or metasized to surrounding lymph nodes however, there still are some cases where they can be cured.

One’s therapy will be based on the stage, age, general health, and location of the tumour.

Chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy are the three main treatment options for head and neck cancers. All three treatments might be given to some patients.

– Surgery: The tumour and a portion of the surrounding healthy tissue may be removed by the surgeon. If it is believed that cancer has spread, the lymph nodes in the neck may also be removed. The patient’s appearance and capacity for chewing, talking, and swallowing may change after head and neck surgery. For these reasons, patients could need post-operative speech therapy and reconstructive surgery.

– Radiotherapy: High-energy X-rays are used in radiation therapy to kill cancer cells. The body area is where a machine performs this. Radiation therapy may cause adverse effects, including sores or irritation where it has been applied, trouble tasting or swallowing, loss of saliva, decreased appetite, and nausea. If one experience any adverse effects, let the doctor know so they can advise on how to handle them.

– Chemotherapy: Using anti-cancer medications to eradicate cancer cells throughout the body is known as chemotherapy. It is more frequently applied to head and neck malignancies in advanced stages. Mouth sores, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, rash, joint discomfort, and hair loss are examples of side effects.

Methods of prevention

Cancers of the head and neck can often be avoided. These are three crucial actions:

– Give up tobacco: The most frequent cause of head and neck cancers is tobacco use. These malignancies have a tobacco usage connection of 85%. Give up all forms of tobacco consumption (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snuff, and chewing tobacco) to lower the risk of developing head and neck cancer.

– Reduce drinking: Additionally proven to increase the risk of head and neck cancer is alcohol usage. Reducing alcohol intake can reduce one’s risk of these cancers.

– Get an HPV vaccine: Some head and neck malignancies, especially oropharyngeal carcinoma, can be brought on by the human papillomavirus. Ask the doctor if the vaccine might be beneficial. When administered at a young age, it is most effective at preventing HPV (up to age 26).

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