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Home ยป Understanding Head and Neck Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment Options

Understanding Head and Neck Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment Options

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Reconstructive surgery and speech therapy may be necessary after head and neck cancer surgery since the procedure might alter the patient’s look as well as their capacity to eat, speak, and swallow.

The phrase “head and neck cancer” refers to malignancies that first appear in that area of the body.

This region of the human body has a wide variety of tissue types.

Men and individuals over 50 are more likely than others to get head and neck cancer. If discovered early, many tumours are treatable and relatively avoided.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a significant risk factor for several forms of head and neck cancer and is second only to tobacco and alcohol use as the most frequent causes of head and neck cancer.

Head and neck cancer may grow anywhere.

Any of the following areas may develop head and neck cancer:

  • The larynx or vocal box
  • The nasal cavity is the area behind the nose where air travels while breathing before reaching the throat.
  • using the mouth or oral cavity
  • The area surrounding the nose, known as the paranasal sinuses, is coated with cells that secrete mucus to keep the area moist. When we talk or sing, they also provide room for the sound to reverberate.
  • pharynx or the throat
  • Jaws are salivary glands, which create saliva to keep food wet and aid in digestion.


Understanding Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, and Treatment Options


What forms of cancer of the head and neck exist?

These regions are most often impacted by the various forms of head and neck cancer:

  • Hypopharyngeal cancer The tissues in the bottom region of the neck, behind the voice box, contain cancerous cells.
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer The tissues of the upper throat and behind the nose contain cancerous cells.
  • Oropharyngeal cancer The centre of the throat, near the rear, contains cancerous cells.
  • Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer The tissues in the tiny hollow areas surrounding the nose, referred to as the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, which are situated just behind the nose, contain cancer cells.
  • Carcinoma of the salivary glands. The salivary glands beneath the jawbones, on the side of the face in front of the ears, and slightly below the tongue are all sites where cancerous cells may grow. Salivary glands may be found throughout the upper digestive system.
  • A cancer of the mouth. In the oral cavity exist cancerous cells. Lips, teeth, gums, the upper two-thirds of the tongue, the lining of the cheeks and lips, the region beneath the tongue, the roof of the mouth, and the little space behind the wisdom teeth are among these areas.
  • Laryngopharyngeal cancer Larynx cancer cells are present. The majority of cancer cells, commonly referred to as squamous cell carcinoma, might begin to form on the mucous membrane’s surface (SCC) Salivary gland tumours and malignancies that develop in muscles, cartilage, or other structural tissues are two other, less prevalent types (sarcomas)
  • Cutaneous cancer The tissue that develops on the surface of the skin contains cancer cells.
  • A head and neck melanoma. Melanocytes, the cells that generate skin pigment or colour, are where melanoma, a kind of cancer, develops.
  • Head and neck basal cell cancer. A non-melanoma cancer known as basal cell carcinoma develops from aberrant basal cells in the skin.
  • Head and neck squamous cell cancer. It is the second most prevalent kind of non-melanoma malignancy and a subtype of skin cancer. Depending on the location and involvement of the nerves, it is more aggressive and can need substantial surgery.
  • The head and neck sarcoma Cancerous cells may be detected in the body’s soft tissue, including muscles, tendons, lymphatic or blood arteries, joints, and fat.
  • Unknown primary site carcinoma of the head and neck. This kind of cancer often manifests as a lump in the neck, which indicates that it has progressed to one or more neck lymph nodes.
  • Those who are susceptible to head and neck cancer
  • Smokers, tobacco chewers, and drinkers are known to have an elevated risk of head and neck cancer. Many head and neck cancer patients have no known risk factors. According to experts, it is presently impossible to predict who will get cancer.


Head and neck cancer risk factors include:

  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Excessive alcoholic beverage use
  • Tobacco chewing
  • Bodhi nut
  • Sunlight Radiation
  • Asbestos, wood dust, or nickel inhalation
  • Oral hygiene issues
  • These are the risk factors for head and neck cancers linked to HPV:
  • HPV exposure from sex
  • Marijuana use


What signs indicate head and neck cancer?


These are typical signs of head and neck cancer:

  • A new lump or lumps on the face, neck, or passageways for breathing and swallowing
  • A mouth or tongue ache that does not go away
  • A persistent throat infection
  • Having trouble swallowing
  • Variation in voice
  • Hoarseness
  • Gums, tongue, or oral mucous membranes with white or red patches
  • Inflammation of the jaw (causing braces to fit poorly or become uncomfortable to wear)
  • Blood or discomfort unusually from the mouth, throat, or nose
  • Persistent sinus infections that may not go better after taking antibiotics
  • Muscular paralysis or numbness in the face
  • There is ear pain.
  • Recurring sinus infections that don’t clear even after taking antibiotics
  • Neck discomfort that persists
  • Chronic headaches
  • Discomfort in the top teeth
  • Nasal or oral bleeding, or the presence of blood in the saliva
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Ear discomfort that never stops.

    Breathing or speaking issues.

    How is cancer detected in this case?

    The secret to successfully treating head and neck cancer is early diagnosis. The majority of head and neck malignancies may be quickly found via a physical examination. Following an examination, the doctor will request the following diagnostic tests:

Physical examination to look at the tongue, throat, neck, and nasal cavity.

Endoscopy: The voice box, throat, nasal cavity, or any other place where symptoms are felt are examined by the doctor using an endoscope, a thin, illuminated tube.

  • Blood, urine, or other bodily sample analyses in laboratories
  • Pictures of the inside of the head and neck may be created using X-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, or PET scans.
  • The only accurate approach to detect cancer is via a biopsy, which involves a doctor removing tissue for a pathologist to examine under a microscope.
  • It may be carried out in the operating room while the patient is under general anaesthesia or at the doctor’s office with a local anaesthetic, often administered with a needle.

    How is cancer of the head and neck treated?

  • Identifying the tumour’s stage is the first step in treating head and neck cancer. Cancer that is in stages I or II has just recently begun to grow and has not yet spread outside of its initial site.

Usually, these tumours are treatable. Cancer in stages III and IV suggests that it is either a huge tumour or that it has spread to adjacent lymph nodes.

The majority of them have a possibility of recovery, although they often need more involved therapy. Metastatic tumours, often known as cancers that have migrated to other regions of the body, are typically regarded as incurable but may still be managed to lessen symptoms.

The physicians will thus decide on a treatment strategy based on the patient’s age, tumour location, and overall health status. Radiotherapy, surgery, and chemotherapy are the three major therapies for head and neck cancer, and some patients may undergo all three.

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