Head And Neck Cancer

What Is Head And Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancer is a term used to describe a number of different malignant tumors that develop in or around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses, and mouth (see below).

Most head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. This type of cancer begins in the flat, squamous cells that make up the thin layer of tissue on the surface of the structures in the head and neck. Directly beneath this lining, which is called the epithelium, some areas of the head and neck have a layer of moist tissue, called the mucosa. If a cancer is limited to the squamous layer of cells, it is called carcinoma in situ. If the cancer has grown beyond this cell layer and moved into the deeper tissue, then it is called invasive squamous cell carcinoma.

If a head and neck cancer starts in the salivary glands, the tumor will usually be classified as an adenocarcinoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma, or mucoepidermoid carcinoma.

Head And Neck Cancer: Types & Stages

There are five main types of head and neck cancer, each named according to the part of the body where they develop. For more information about a specific type, click on one of the names below.

  • Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer.The larynx is commonly called the voice box. It is a tube­shaped organ in the neck that is important for breathing, talking, and swallowing. It is located at the top of the windpipe, or trachea. The hypopharynx is also called the gullet. It is the lower part of the throat that surrounds the larynx.
  • Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinus Cancer.The nasal cavity is the space just behind the nose where air passes on its way to the throat. The paranasal sinuses are the air­filled areas that surround the nasal cavity.
  • Nasopharyngeal Cancer.The nasopharynx is the air passageway at the upper part of the throat behind the nose.
  • Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer.The oral cavity includes the mouth and tongue. The oropharynx includes the middle of the throat from the tonsils to the tip of the voice box.
  • Salivary Gland Cancer.The salivary gland is tissue that produces saliva, which is the fluid that is released into the mouth to keep it moist and that contains enzymes that begin breaking down food.

Head And Neck Cancer: Detection & Treatment Options

People with head and neck cancer often experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with head and neck cancer do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer.

  • Swelling or sore that does not heal; this is the most common symptom
  • Red or white patch in the mouth
  • Lump, bump, or mass in the head or neck area, with or without pain
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Foul mouth odor not explained by hygiene
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Nasal obstruction or persistent nasal congestion
  • Frequent nose bleeds and/or unusual nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Double vision
  • Numbness or weakness of a body part in the head and neck region
  • Pain or difficulty chewing, swallowing, or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Ear and/or jaw pain
  • Blood in the saliva or phlegm, which is mucus discharged in mouth from respiratory passages
  • Loosening of teeth
  • Dentures that no longer fit
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue

If you are concerned about one or more of the symptoms or signs on this list, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

Many cancers of the head and neck can be cured, especially if they are found early. Although eliminating the cancer is the primary goal of treatment, preserving the function of the nearby nerves, organs, and tissues is also very important. When planning treatment, doctors consider how treatment might affect a person’s quality of life, such as how a person feels, looks, talks, eats, and breathes.

Overall, the main treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Surgery or radiation therapy by themselves or a combination of these treatments may be part of a person’s treatment plan. More details can be found in each specific cancer type’s section.

Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, and the patient’s preferences and overall health. Your care plan may also include treatment for symptoms and side effects, an important part of cancer care. Take time to learn about all of your treatment options and be sure to ask questions about things that are unclear. Also, talk about the goals of each treatment with your doctor and what you can expect while receiving the treatment. Learn more about making treatment decisions.

Head And Neck Cancer: FAQs

Answer :

Certain factors can make one person more likely to get head and neck cancer than another person. These are called risk factors. However, just because you have one or more risk factors does not mean that you will definitely get head and neck cancer. In fact, you can have many risk factors and still not develop the disease. On the other hand, you can have no risk factors and still get head and neck cancer.

  • Tobacco use. Smokers are more likely to get head and neck cancer than nonsmokers. Alcohol consumption. Some reports have found people who drink alcohol heavily (2 or more drinks a day) are at an increased risk. Those who smoke and drink heavily are at an even greater risk than people who do not.
  • Gender. Head and neck cancer is 2 to 3 times more common in men than in women. Race. Some types of head and neck cancer are more common among African Americas than among white Americans.
  • Sun exposure. Spending a lot of time in the sun without protecting your skin and lips is linked to cancer in the lip area as well as skin cancer on the face, head, and neck. Certein infections. Some human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein­Barr virus (EBV) infections are strongly linked to head and neck cancer.
  • Age. People older than age 40 are at increased risk for head and neck cancer.
  • Poor mouth care. Not taking care of the mouth and teeth may increase the risk of head and neck cancer
  • Poor diet. A diet that is low in some vitamins and minerals might increase the risk of head and neck cancer.
  • Workplace exposures. People exposed to wood dust, paint fumes, asbestos, and some other chemicals appear to be at increased risk for head and neck cancer.
  • Weakened immune system. People whose immune system is suppressed, such as people who have had organ transplants, are at higher risk for some kinds of head and neck cancer.
Answer :

Many people with head and neck cancer experience symptoms such as:

  • A growth or sore in the mouth
  • A lump in the neck
  • A lump or sore inside the nose that will not heal
  • A sore throat that does not go away
  • Blocked sinuses that will not clear
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Cough or hoarseness that does not go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Difficulty swallowing, speaking, or breathing
  • Frequent headache or pain around the nose, cheeks, jaws, or forehead
  • Frequent nosebleeds or ones that don’t stop
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness in the face
  • Pain in the ear
  • Swelling of the eyes or under the chin or around the jaw
  • Vomiting

These symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other problems. It is important to see a doctor about any symptoms like these so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Answer :

A Many people with cancer get a second opinion from another doctor. There are many reasons to get a second opinion. Here are some of those reasons:

  • Not feeling comfortable with the treatment decision
  • Being diagnosed with a rare type of cancer
  • Having different options for how to treat the cancer
  • Not being able to see a cancer expert
Answer :

There are many ways to get a second opinion:

Ask a primary care doctor. Your doctor may be able to recommend a specialist. This may be a surgeon, medical oncologist, or radiation oncologist. Sometimes these doctors work together at cancer centers or programs.

Call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service. The number is 800­4­CANCER (800­422­6237). They provide information about treatment facilities, including cancer centers and other programs supported by the National Cancer Institute.

Seek other options. Check with a local medical society, hospital, medical school, or cancer advocacy group to get names of doctors who can give you a second opinion. Or ask other people who have had your type of cancer to refer you to someone.

Answer :

Treatment depends on the type of cancer you have, where it is, and its stage. Common treatments for head and neck cancer include radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy.