Head and neck cancer

Head and neck cancer
Highlights

Head and neck cancer. Cancers that appear in head, digestive system and breathing-related are called Head and Neck cancers.

Cancers that appear in head, digestive system and breathing-related are called Head and Neck cancers. These cancers appear in parts like lips, mouth, gums, tongue, nasal cavity, pharynx, voice box etc. About 90% of these cancers belong to squalors cell carcinoma kind, which means these cancers are mostly seen in inner lips, gums, and tongue always in damp state. The cancers that affect brain, esophagus, thyroid gland, head muscles, skin cancers are not considered as head and neck cancers.

Like lung cancers, the main causes for these cancers are caused by alcohol, tobacco and its products besides Human Papilloma Virus (HPO). The risk of this cancer is more if alcohol and tobacco habits go together. There are 16 to 18 kinds of HPV virus responsible for cancers of fore-tongue, some kinds of tonsils, cancers relating to head and brain. Habits like using tobacco and tobacco products, gutka, pan, jarda, snuff, nut powder, beedies, cigar, betel leaves are the causes for cancers relating to Head and Neck.

Depending upon the area of the growth of cancer tumor, pale mouth, red color scars, sore throat due to throat pain, difficulty in swallowing, swollen jaws, labored breathing and difficulty in talking, headache, impaired hearing, and earache and many kinds of symptoms prevail. Besides HIV virus, tobacco products, alcohol, Epstein bar virus, stale food materials, bark dust, people working in asbestos, metal, textile industries and radiation given to head for other problems are more prone to this cancer.

Cancer affected part, stage, and grading will be decided with imaging procedures like biopsy, MRI, CT, PET, if symptoms are doubtful. Treatment methods depend upon the factors like cancer-affected part, stage, patient’s age and his health. Surgery, chemo-targeted therapy or some kinds of combination therapies will be decided as per the need. Many changes take place after those treatments to the delicate parts like head, neck. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to get the operation done by experienced surgeons who impart utmost care. Head and Neck cancers mainly affect the following parts.

Pharyngeal: Located behind nose with 5 inches length and a tube linking esophagus consisting three parts namely;

Laryngeal: vocal box helping to speak, vocal chords, epiglottis that obstructs food from entering lungs. Para nasal sinuses and nasal cavity; this is a light sinus located in the middle part of head, and both sides of nose. Salivary glands; these salivary glands are located in the bottom of mouth, both sides of jaw bones.

Every one out of three cancers in our country belongs to this type. The death rate is more due to belated noticing or mitosis. Nearly ten lakh people per year are falling victims to cancer in our country, out of whom, 2 lakh people suffer from this cancer only. This number is only 30,000 in America. This cancer can be permanently solved with surgery itself if found in initial stage i.e. stage I and II. Reconstructive surgery is necessary many times after surgery.

Chemo, radiation is to be given top priority for stage III and IV. Treatment methods are 3 DCRT, VMAT, IMRT, IGRT, Brach therapy. After these treatments, keeping away from earlier vices, observing cleanliness of mouth, physiotherapy, speech therapy, Jaw stretching like exercises is very essential. It is also equally important to get frequent checkups regularly. When leucoplakia or erythroplakia patches are noticed devoid of pain in the mouth, tests are necessary and advisable.

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