Head and Neck Cancer-

Symptoms involving the head and neck may depend on where cancer develops and how it spreads. The most commonly affected areas are the ears, nose, and throat.

For example, tumors in the larynx or pharynx can be discovered as a lump in the throat. Cancer in the mouth can manifest as mouth sores or swelling of the jaw.

In addition to the physical signs of head and neck cancer, these tumors often cause symptoms similar to those of less serious conditions, such as the common cold. Voice changes, headaches, sore throat, or cough can be symptoms of throat cancer. Other symptoms of head and neck cancer include pain or ringing in the ears.

Common symptoms of cancerous tumors in the head and neck include:

Stages of head and neck cancer:

The standard system for staging head and neck cancer involves three factors: 

Based on these evaluations, your doctor can determine the stage of cancer and develop an appropriate treatment plan for you.

There are five stages of head and neck cancer:

What Causes Head and Neck Cancer?

Alcohol and tobacco are the main risk factors for head and neck cancer. 

All tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco, snuff, or a type of chewing tobacco called betel quid) are linked to head and neck cancer (except cancers of salivary glands).

How can I prevent head and neck cancer?

There are many lifestyle choices that can increase the risk of head and neck cancer. Reduce your risk by:

• Avoiding tobacco and alcohol.

• Practice safe sex to avoid HPV infection.

• Practice sun safety.

• Take protective measures when working with asbestos, wood dust, and radiation.

• Practice proper oral hygiene.

How common is head and neck cancer?

These cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women. 

Head and neck cancers are also diagnosed more often in people over the age of 50 than in younger people.

How can I reduce my risk of developing head and neck cancer?

1. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, contact a smoking cessation program, such as the one offered at MSK, for help to quit smoking.

2. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

3. Protect yourself against HPV infection by practicing safe sex and getting vaccinated against HPV.

4. Do not use tanning beds and avoid prolonged periods of sun exposure.

5. Wear a protective mask if you are exposed to toxic fumes and dust. Companies can install air filtration systems to minimize employee exposure to harmful fumes and dust. 

How are head and neck cancers diagnosed?

A lump in the nose, neck, or throat, with or without pain.

• A persistent sore throat

• Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

• Unexplained weight loss

• Frequent cough

• Voice change or hoarseness

• Earache or difficulty hearing

• Headaches

• A red or white spot in the mouth

• Bad breath that cannot be explained by hygiene

• Nasal obstruction or persistent congestion

• Frequent nosebleeds or unusual discharge

• Difficulty breathing

How is head and neck cancer treated?

Treatment depends on the stage.

Treatment for head and neck cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of treatments. 

People who are diagnosed with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer may receive different treatments than people with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers.

What are the side effects of treatment?

• Pain (or even open sores) in the mouth or throat

Dry mouth.

• Difficulty swallowing.

• Changes in taste.

• Nausea.

• Earaches.

• Tooth decay.

• Swelling of the gums, throat, or neck.

What supportive rehabilitation options are available for head and neck cancer patients?

Cancer rehabilitation is a program that helps people with cancer maintain and restore their physical and emotional well-being. Cancer rehabilitation is available before, during, and after cancer treatment.

Cancer rehabilitation involves many types of specialists working together to develop a personalized rehabilitation plan that considers your preferences, strengths, and goals. Participation in the cancer rehabilitation program can help you experience a more complete or faster recovery.

For more information, please get in touch with our team and we can direct you to find more relevant information and solutions

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