Head and Neck Cancer: Where to seek help

Head and Neck Cancer: Where to seek help

Head and Neck Cancer; Where to seek help
Information: Symptoms, Types of Head and Neck Cancer, Diagnosis, Treatment, Results, Rehabilitation and Follow-up.

What is Head and Neck Cancer?
Cancer tissue which originating from head and Neck Region like; skin of face, lips, Neck, Oral Cavity (Mouth), pharynx (Throat), Larynx, Nose and sinuses.

What are the causes of Head and Neck Cancer?

  • Drinking Alcohol
  • Consuming Tobacco (in Any Form Like; Smoking (Bidi, Hukka, Cigarette), Gutkha etc.

Consuming both Tobacco and alcohol increases your chances of cancer many times more than consuming one.

  • Paan (Supari)
  • Preserved or Packaged food
  • Poor Oral Hygiene
  • Radiation Exposure
  • Infection of virus like; Epstein Barr virus, Human Papillomavirus type-16.
  • Occupation Exposure to various chemicals may lead to cancer.

Persistent Symptoms which are suggestive of Head and Neck cancer.

General Symptoms:

  • Weight Loss
  • Decrease Appetite
  • Body Weakness

 Specific Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

  • Skin of face and Lips Cancer
    • non-healing ulcers with or without pain
    • Swelling or Lump
  • Neck Cancer
    • Non-healing ulcers with or without pain
    • Hard painless Swelling or Lump in neck region
  • Oral Cavity (Mouth Cancer)
    • Bleeding from mouth
    • Non-healing mouth ulcers with or without pain
    • Red or white patches in the mouth (Erythroplakia and Leucoplakia respectively)
    • Decrease tongue movement (Difficulty in speech)
    • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Pharynx (Throat Cancer)
    • Bleeding from throat
    • Throat Pain
    • Difficulty and/or pain in swallowing
    • Ear pain (Referred Pain in ear)
  • Larynx Cancer
    • Change in voice (Hoarseness in voice)
    • Difficulty in breathing
    • Difficulty and/or pain in swallowing
    • Ear pain (Referred Pain in ear)
  • Nose Cancer and sinuses
    • Nasal Blockage (Difficulty in breathing trough nose)
    • Bleeding from nose
    • Pain in face/nose/head/upper teeth
    • Facial swelling

When to consult your doctor?
If you are having above mentioned symptoms Consult with Head and Neck Specialist regarding your symptoms.

How to Diagnose Head and neck cancer?
Get your clinical examination done. Go for various Diagnostic tests as recommended by doctor like;

  • Blood Test
  • CT/MRI
  • Sonography
  • FNAC/Biopsy etc.

How are head and neck cancers treated?
The treatment plan for an individual patient depends on a number of factors like;

  • Location of the tumor
  • Stage of the Cancer
  • Age of patient
  • General Health.

Treatment for head and neck cancer can be done by:

  • Surgery
    • Wide Local Excision of Tumor
    • Maxillectomy
    • Composite Resection
    • Mandibulectomy
    • COMMANDO (COMbined MAndibulectomy and Neck Dissection Operation)
    • Glossectomy
    • Neck Dissections
    • Laryngectomy
    • Reconstruction of defect with variable flaps
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Where should you get the treatment?
 A tumor board must include Cancer surgeon, Medical Oncologist and Radiation Oncologist as the board members who will plan for the treatment.

 Tumor board will decide for the planning of treatment and they may use a combination of above treatments.

What is the result of treatment?
Patients who are early diagnosed and undergone proper treatment has better results

Surgery for head and neck cancers often changes;

  • The patient’s ability to chew, swallow, or talk.
  • The patient may look different after surgery, and the face and neck may be swollen the swelling usually goes away within a few weeks.
  • If lymph nodes are removed, the flow of lymph in the area where they were removed may be slower and lymph could in the tissues, causing additional swelling; this swelling may last for a long time.

What is the Rehabilitation?
Rehabilitation is a very important part of this process. The goals of rehabilitation depend on the extent of the disease and the treatment that a patient has received.

Patients who have trouble speaking after treatment may need speech therapy.

Why regular follow-up is essential?
Regular follow-up is very important after treatment for head and neck cancer to make sure that the cancer has not returned, or that a second primary (new) cancer has not developed. Depending on the type of cancer, medical checkups could include exams of the stoma, if one has been created, and of the mouth, neck and throat. Regular dental exams may also be necessary.

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