Head & Neck Cancer
Head & Neck cancer is a common form of cancer in the developing countries. More than one lakh Head & Neck cancer cases are diagnosed in our country every year.
• Head & Neck cancer includes all the cancers occurring in ear, nose, throat and oral cavity
• Typically the cells lining these organs experience a cancerous growth and affect the entire organ
The most common parts affected are affect and pharynx regions.
In India most of the oral cavity cancers are seen in people who chew tobacco, tobacco related products, and smoke cigars/cigarettes. Studies have shown that in India cancer can start from a condition known as Sub Mucous Fibrosis, which is a result of chewing products containing tobacco and other ingredients such as betel nuts or ‘suparis’ for a long time.
• Smoking, chewing tobacco and tobacco related products as also inhalation of snuff and consumption of alcohol are the known risk factors
• Exposure to chemicals such asbestos, chromium, nickel, arsenic and formaldehyde
• Two viruses (Epstein – Barr and Human Papillo) are under investigation as possible risk factors. Epstein-Barr and Human Papilloma are also known to increase the risk of this type of cancer
Signs & Symptoms
The signs and symptoms vary with the location of the primary site and the stage of the cancer. Head & Neck cancer produces early warning signs that can lead to early diagnosis and a high probability of cure in many cases. For example, hoarseness frequently occurs in the very earliest of voice box cancers. Persistent sore throat for longer than two weeks is a symptom of possible cancer in the voice box and/or pharynx.
• Cancer of the oral cavity include pain and changes in the fit of dentures (if the patient is using one)
• A non-healing ulcer, difficulty in swallowing or development of a mass of tissue in the mouth may also serve as warning signs of potential carcinomas
• Although not an early sign, a neck mass may be the first presenting symptom
• Nasal can all indicate possibility of nasopharyngeal cancer
• Extensive examination of the Head& Neck region will the first step followed by imaging studies to identify the site & stage of cancer
• Once diagnosed the treatment plan my include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy
In case of early detection, there are greater chances of complete recovery