Head and Neck Cancer encompasses cancer that forms in the nose, mouth, throat, voice box, salivary glands, or any other structures within the head and neck. Most of these cancers start in the lining of the tnose, mouth, throat, voice box. Traditionally, these cancers are related to tobacco and alcohol abuse. Increasingly, these cancers are related to human papilloma virus and often present in people who don’t smoke or drink alcohol.
These cancers can cause impairment of normal head and neck functions. These malfunctions are often the presenting symptoms of head and neck cancer: difficulty speaking (hoarseness), difficulty chewing or swallowing, changes in sense of smell, changes in hearing, difficulty breathing through the nose, or even difficulty breathing in general. Otolaryngologists at Shea Clinic work closely with the patients to help them make well-advised decisions regarding head and neck cancer treatment options and the therapies needed to manage side effects.
The common symptoms and signs of head and neck cancer include: a nonhealing sore or ulcer anywhere in the nose, mouth or throat or on the skin. Head and neck cancer can also present as a painless lump or bump in the neck or head, an unexplained weight loss, fatigue, ear pain, hoarseness, double vision, jaw pain, ear infection, difficulty breathing, and persistent sore throat. It is good to speak with the doctor about any concerning changes that you are experiencing and duration of these changes.
Upon diagnosis of cancer, the initial treatment involves relieving symptoms. Cancer care begins as soon as the diagnosis is made and goes on throughout the treatment of the disease.
Surgery remains the mainstay treatment for head and neck cancer, but it may be combined with or supplanted by radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, and now may be supplemented by immunologic therapies.
Additional treatment options are:
- Immunotherapy – Medications aid the immune system in fighting cancer
- Chemotherapy – The treatment option is reserved mainly for patients in whom the head and neck cancer has spread to other areas
- Targeted therapy – The drugs target specific proteins to reduce the growth of cancer cells
- Radiotherapy – High doses delivered to tumor cells to minimize the damage on healthy tissue or organs
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