Head and Neck Cancer

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Symptoms

Head and neck cancer symptoms vary depending on the area affected, and may include:

  • Unusual pain in the mouth, neck or throat, particularly when swallowing
  • Lump or swelling in the head or neck area
  • Change in head or neck appearance, particularly any differences that develop between the left and right sides
  • Difficulty breathing, chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • Persistent bleeding through the nose or in the mouth
  • Red or white patch on the gums or inner cheek
  • Chronic sinus blockages or infections
  • Numbness or paralysis with facial muscles

Physical Exam

Having a big sale, on-site celebrity, or other event? Be sure to announce it so everybody knows and gets excited about it.Head and neck exam: This comprehensive examination includes looking and feeling the head and neck area for suspicious lumps and using thin, flexible tubes to examine the oral, nose and/or throat cavities for signs of cancer. Depending on the procedure used, the patient may be given a localized numbing agent or placed under general anesthesia.

  • Biopsy: Examination of suspicious tissue — depending on its location. This may involve scraping the targeted area, using a fine needle to extract a sample or surgically removing a small piece of tissue.
  • CT or CAT (computed tomography) scan: This test involves taking a series of X-ray images to form a computer-generated image, which determines tumor size, location and spread. Special dyes may be used to enhance this scan.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan: This procedure uses radio waves and strong magnets to produce detailed images of the body’s tissues, including head and neck tumors.
  • HPV testing: Throat cancer patients may be tested for human papillomavirus infection, since presence or absence of the virus can guide treatment planning for better outcomes.
  • Genomic testing: The cancerous tissue is tested to see if it exhibits certain genetic mutations or molecular markers, which can be used to help determine disease progression, optimal treatments or identify risk for other cancers.

Types of imaging

Chest X-Ray 

CT scan neck and Chest with IV contrast 

MRI neck with IV contrast 

PET scan 

What are types of Head and Neck cancers :

Head and neck cancers are a group of diseases involved abnormal, uncontrolled cell growth in head and neck tissues. These include:

  • Oral cavity: including the lips, gums, cheek lining, hard palate, front two-thirds of the tongue and floor of mouth underneath the tongue
  • Pharynx: the tube that starts from behind the nose and ending at the esophagus; it may classified further based on location — including the nasopharynx (the upper part behind the nose), oropharynx (the middle part, including the soft palate, base of tongue and tonsils) and hypopharynx (the lower part leading into the esophagus).
  • Larynx: Also known as the voicebox, the larynx is a tube that connects the base of the pharynx to the bronchus and lungs. It contains the vocal cords, which control air output for speaking, and epiglottis, which prevents food matter from going into the larynx during swallowing.
  • Nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses: hollow spaces within and around the nose
  • Salivary (parotid) glands: glands near the jawbone that produce saliva

In addition to these cancers, City of Hope’s head and neck cancer team also treats thyroid cancer, skin cancers and sarcomas in the head and neck region.

What risk factors are linked to head and neck cancers?

Factors that can elevate head and neck cancer risk include:

  • Alcohol: heavy alcohol use, especially over a long time
  • Tobacco: tobacco use, particularly smokeless tobacco (also known as “chewing tobacco” or “snuff”)
  • Frequent or regular consumption of paan (betel quid), mate or preserved foods
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) or Epstein-Barr virus infection
  • Radiation exposure to the head and neck region
  • Occupational/industrial exposures to substances linked with head and neck cancer, including wood and metal dusts, synthetic fibers, asbestos and formaldehyde
  • Poor oral health
  • Family history of head and neck cancers
  • Gender: head and neck cancers are twice as common in men
  • Ethnicity: Asians, particularly Chinese, have a higher risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer

What are the symptoms of head and neck cancers?

  • Unusual pain in the mouth, neck or throat, particularly when swallowing
  • Lump or swelling in the head or neck area
  • Change in head or neck appearance, particularly any differences that develop between the left and right sides
  • Difficulty breathing, chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • Persistent bleeding through the nose or in the mouth
  • Red or white patch on the gums or inner cheek
  • Chronic sinus blockages or infections
  • Numbness or paralysis with facial muscles