What is Head and Neck cancer ?
Head and Neck cancers affect the tissues and organs of the head and neck, some of which include lips, tongue, gums, mouth, lymph nodes in neck, sinuses and ears. The most common type of Head and Neck cancer is the Oral cancer.
What should I look for ?
If you notice any of the following symptoms, it is important to consult your physician without delay.
- A sore in the mouth or on tongue that does not heal
- Painless swelling in the neck or on the side of the face
- Nasal problems, such as bloody discharge, obstruction, or chronic sinus
- Blood in saliva or phlegm for several days
- Pain while swallowing
- Diminished hearing or persistent earache (particularly if accompanied by swallowing difficulties or a lump in the neck)
- Hoarseness in voice lasting more than two weeks
Tongue cancer, which is a common type of oral cancer, begins as a small lump or thick white patch. If left untreated, it can spread to gums, lower jaw, lymph nodes, neck, and the floor of the mouth. Changes in skin can also indicate basal cell cancer, a disease that occurs from exposure to the sun.
What are the risk factors ?
Consumption of tobacco products, alcohol increases the risk of Head and Neck cancers. Other risk factors that contribute to Head and Neck cancers include poor oral hygiene, ill-fitting dentures, chronic (long-term) iron deficiency, infections of the nose, and occupational hazards such as inhalation of wood dust and exposure to nickel.
What is the diagnosis ?
Many patients cannot identify Head and Neck cancers due to the mildness of the symptoms. Precisely why it is important to consult your physician and dentist regularly. In addition to a thorough physical examination, your physician uses blood tests, biopsy and other imaging techniques to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
How is it treated ?
Treatment for many types of Head and Neck cancers often involves one or more combinations of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Goals of treatment do not end with tumor removal, but includes restoration of swallowing, eating and speaking functions.
Is Robotic Surgery an option and why ?
- Small lesions in pharynx, larynx can be excised by trans oral route and preserve normal function.
- Small thyroid cancers can be removed by transaxilla and avoid scar in neck.
- Neck lymph nodes can be removed by retroauricular route and avoid scar in neck.