Know 5 proven Facts about Head and Neck Cancer now.

April is oral & head and cancer awareness month! Did you know it is one of the most common cancer in Nepal?

oral ,head and neck cancer awareness April

What do you know about cancer in the oral cavity and head and neck? For most of us, it’s not something we think about until it affects someone we know or love. But as you’ll see in this article, there are several different types of cancer in the head and neck that require different treatments, from surgery to radiotherapy to chemotherapy and immunotherapy . Learn more about the facts surrounding these cancers, how they can be prevented, and what steps you can take to keep your head and neck healthy.

1 – What is oral, head and neck cancer?

In order to know how to fight head and neck cancer, you first need to know what exactly it is. It’s a broad term used to describe various forms of cancer that affect parts of your head or neck. Common cancer are seen in mouth like tongue, tonsils, voice box in neck(larynx), thyroid etc.

Oral cancer can occur anywhere inside your mouth or on your lips, gums, or cheeks. It can also occur on your tongue, tonsils, hard palate (roof of your mouth), or even your throat. You’re actually more likely to get oral cancer if you smoke than if you don’t smoke. The good news is that oral cancer is curable when caught early enough. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of any symptoms that might suggest oral cancer and to see a doctor right away if you notice anything unusual.

Similarly cancer of larynx can change your voice. It is detected early because of this symptom. Sometimes, patient develop neck nodes. Larynx cancer is highly curable using radiotherapy.

2 – What are the risk factors?

According to The American Cancer Society, risk factors for head and neck cancer include: tobacco use (current or past), alcohol use (heavy drinking over time), HPV infections, poor oral hygiene, poor diet and weight gain. Tobacco is a well-known cancer risk factor, but alcohol also causes cancers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen—the same as tobacco, asbestos, plutonium, or UV radiation.

Other risk factors for these cancers include:

  • Eating preserved or salted foods.
  • Poor oral hygiene and missing teeth.
  • Occupational exposure to wood dust, asbestos, and synthetic fibers.
  • Radiation exposure.
  • Epstein-Barr virus infection.

3 – How do I know if I have it?

Common symptoms of head & neck cancer are as follows:

  1. Oral ulcer, painful or painless, of > 2 weeks duration, not improving with regular medicine
  2. Change in voice of > 2 weeks duration, more likely if smoker and age >40 years
  3. Difficulty swallowing food or something stuck sensation in throat if progressive over weeks –months, not associated with fever
  4. Earache with normal ear examination
  5. Recent onset unilateral hearing loss in adults
  6. Progressive unilateral nasal obstruction with nasal discharge
  7. Asymmetric tonsillar enlargement
  8. Prior history of head and neck cancer
  9. Neck swelling generally painless, more likely if age > 40 years. Higher chance if associated with above mentioned symptoms.

4- What is optimum treatment ?

Most important thing in head and neck cancer is team work.Many cancer are treated by surgery or radiotherapy. In complex surgery, plastic surgical team is needed for reconstruction. Similarly supportive treatment like speech and swallowing therapy are needed for successful rehabilitation. Advanced cases require combination of treatment and may need additional chemotherapy or immunotherapy. We have a complete team for head and neck cancer treatment who work together in tumor board.

What kinds of tests will I need?
In order to determine if you have head and neck cancer, your doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination of your mouth, nose, ear, and neck. This is typically followed by a CT scan or MRI scan to get a close look at any suspicious growths or nodules. A nasal endoscopy can also be used to examine specific areas of your nose that may show signs of cancer. Many cancers in these areas can be treated with surgery alone, but some may require additional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

What if they find a lump or other symptoms, what then?
If you find a lump or other symptoms of head and neck cancer, don’t be afraid to see your doctor. For those with stage 1 cancer, 90% of patients are still alive five years after their diagnosis. For stage 2, it drops to about 85%. But for stage 3 or 4, that drops to 50-60%. Regardless of where your cancer falls on these stages, make sure you seek out treatment immediately.

Is treatment successful?
That’s why early detection and treatment are so important. The majority of these cancers are found at an early stage, when they can be successfully treated with surgery to remove cancerous cells, followed by chemotherapy or radiation to eliminate any remaining cancer cells that may have spread to other parts of your body.

How will treatment change my life?
Like all serious illnesses, head and neck cancer can be an emotional challenge. That’s why it’s so important to share what you’re going through with loved ones, or seek support groups if that feels better. Knowing that your loved ones are there for you during treatment can help keep your mind off things—and possibly help you feel better. So never hesitate to reach out for help when you need it!

5- What is IMRT radiotherapy?

IMRT radiotherapy uses a smart system to deliver radiation, sparing healthy tissue from damage. This allows oncologists to deliver treatment more precisely and to help patients with head and neck cancer overcome their disease. IMRT is important for treating cancers like oral cancer, tongue cancer, throat cancer, laryngeal cancer, head-and-neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), salivary gland tumors, sinus tumors, or paranasal sinus tumors.

To know more about head nand neck cancer, call us or visit our expert team of ENT head and neck surgeon or oncologists.