Navigating Head and Neck Cancer: Your Guide to Expert Support

Head and Neck Cancer: Where to Get Help

What is Head and Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancer is when there is cancer in parts like the skin of the face, lips, neck, oral cavity (mouth), throat, larynx, nose, and sinuses.

Causes of Head and Neck Cancer:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Using tobacco in any form like smoking bidi, hookah, cigarette, or chewing gutkha
  • Using both tobacco and alcohol together increases the risk even more
  • Chewing paan (betel nut)
  • Eating preserved or packaged foods
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Infection by viruses like Epstein Barr virus or Human Papillomavirus type-16
  • Exposure to chemicals at work
  • Persistent symptoms indicating head and neck cancer

General Symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness

Specific Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

Cancer of the skin of the face and lips:

  • Sores on the skin that don’t heal, with or without pain
  • Swelling or lumps

Neck cancer:

  • Sores in the neck that don’t heal, with or without pain
  • Painless swelling or lumps in the neck

Oral cavity (mouth) cancer:

  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Sores in the mouth that don’t heal, with or without pain
  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Difficulty moving the tongue or speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing

Throat (pharynx) cancer:

  • Bleeding from the throat
  • Throat pain
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Ear pain

Larynx cancer:

  • Change in voice
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Ear pain

Nose and sinus cancer:

  • Blocked nose
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Pain in the face, nose, head, or upper teeth
  • Swelling of the face

When to see a doctor?

If you have any of these symptoms, consult a head and neck specialist.

How to Diagnose Head and Neck Cancer?

Undergo clinical examination and diagnostic tests as recommended by the doctor, such as blood tests, CT/MRI scans, sonography, or biopsy.

How are head and neck cancers treated?

Treatment depends on factors like the tumor’s location, stage, patient’s age, and overall health. Treatment methods include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Treatment planning involves a tumor board consisting of cancer surgeons, medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists.

What are the results of treatment?

Early diagnosis and proper treatment lead to better outcomes. Surgery for head and neck cancers may affect functions like chewing, swallowing, and talking. Patients may look different after surgery, and there may be swelling which usually goes away over time.

Rehabilitation:

Rehabilitation goals vary based on the disease’s extent and the treatment received. Patients who have difficulty speaking after treatment may need speech therapy.

Why is regular follow-up essential?

Regular follow-up is crucial to ensure the cancer hasn’t returned or a new cancer hasn’t developed. Medical checkups may include exams of the mouth, neck, throat, and stoma if created. Regular dental checkups may also be necessary.

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