Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer is a deadly disease that affects thousands of people every year. Unfortunately, many individuals are unaware of the causes and risk factors associated with this type of cancer which can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment.
Whether you’re living with head and neck cancer or want to learn more about it for informational purposes, this article will provide you with an overview of everything you need to know about the disease. Let’s dive in!
How common is head and neck cancer?
Head and neck cancer is the seventh most common type of cancer in the world. Each year, about 625,173 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer. It is more common in men than women. The average age of someone diagnosing with head and neck cancer is around 50 to 60 years old.
Types of Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer is of several types depending on the location and type of cancer you’ve such as –
- Oral Cancer – forms in the lips, tongue, and lining of cheeks.
- Oropharyngeal cancer – It is cancer that happens in the middle part of your throat known as Oropharyngeal cancer.
- Hypopharyngeal cancer – It is cancer that happens at the bottom part of your Hypopharyngeal cancer.
Head and Neck Cancer
4. Laryngeal cancer – Cancer of the voice box (larynx) that contains vocal cords.
5. Nasopharyngeal cancer – It is a cancer of the upper part of your throat (nasopharyngeal).
6. Salivary gland cancer – It is a cancer of salivary glands that secretes saliva.
7. Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer – Cancer that happens inside the nose or hollow spaces in bones.
What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer?
The symptoms of head and neck cancer can vary depending on where the cancer is located. However, some general symptoms that are prominent include:
- Lump or mass in the neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Change in voice or hoarseness that lasts more than 2 weeks
- Persistent cough
- Ear pain or pressure
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain in the head and neck area
- Frequent headaches
- Sore mouth or tongue
- Sinus infections
- Neck, jaw, or side face swelling
- Facial numbness
- A white or red patch in your gums
If you’re consistently experiencing the above symptoms for more than 2 to 3 weeks then it is best to consult a specialist doctor for an accurate diagnosis of your condition.
Causes and Risk Factors for Head and Neck Cancer
Most head and neck cancers are caused by exposure to carcinogen substances that damage the DNA leading to the formation of cancer cells. The primary carcinogens associated with head and neck cancer are tobacco and alcohol use.
- Tobacco – It is the leading cause of head and neck cancer, accounting for about 85% of all cases. Tobacco products contain more than 70 known carcinogens, including nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide.
- Smoking – Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes increases the risk of developing head and neck cancer, especially cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, and pharynx.
- Cigar and pipe smoking – It poses a similar risk as cigarette smoking, although the risk is lower. Smokeless tobacco products (such as snuff and chewing tobacco) also increase the risk of developing oral cancer.
- Drinking alcohol – Alcohol is another major risk factor for head and neck cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption can damage DNA directly or work together with other carcinogens (such as tobacco) to further increase the risk. Head and neck cancers are particularly common in people who are indulged in both smoking cigarettes and heavy drinking in their daily life.
Other potential risk factors for head and neck cancer include:
- Exposure to certain viruses, including Epstein-Barr virus which causes mono but is also linked to cancer, and human papillomavirus (HPV).
- Poor oral hygiene.
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables.
- Exposure to certain chemicals, including asbestos, pesticides, wood dust, and paint fumes.
- Eating too many salty foods like meat and fish can increase the risk of nasopharyngeal cancer.
- Genes can increase your cancer risk.
- Poor dental hygiene can increase your risk of getting the periodontal disease and oral cancer.
- A weak immune system makes it difficult for your body to fight cancer. HIV infection can make the immune system weaker resulting in cancer.
There are several diagnostic tests that can help in the successful detection of cancer. The exams and tests included are-
- Physical exam – It checks for oral and nasal cavities of the neck, throat, and tongue.
- Endoscopy – It is a thin tube that allows your provider to see your nasal cavity, voice box, and throat to diagnose the health concern.
- Imaging test – X-rays, CT scans, PET scans, and MRIs create pictures of the head and neck area for effective diagnosis.
- Lab test – A blood sample test is performed where viruses such as HPV or EBV can be detected.
- Biopsy – A small tissue is removed to determine the underlying cause of your condition.
There are several different types of treatments for head and neck cancer, depending on the stage and location of cancer. Some common treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
- Surgery – is the most common treatment for head and neck cancer. The type of surgery depends on the size and location of the tumor. In some cases, a combination of surgery and radiation therapy is necessary for effective treatment.
- Radiation therapy – It uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It can be given as external beam radiation therapy or internal beam radiation therapy. External beam radiation therapy is given from a machine outside the body, while internal beam radiation therapy involves placing radioactive material near the head and neck tumor site.
- Chemotherapy – It uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be given intravenously or taken as a pill. Chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery, and it is most commonly used for advanced-stage head and neck cancer.
Head and neck cancer can be a very serious disease to endure, but there are things that you can do to help prevent or cope with it.
One of the best things that you can do to prevent head and neck cancer is to quit smoking. Secondly, you can cut Tobacco consumption which is one of the leading causes of head and neck cancer, so quitting will significantly lower your risk.
There are also some lifestyle changes that can help lower your risk of head and neck cancer such as Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help reduce your risk as well as limiting alcohol consumption can be effective in preventing cancer.
Head and neck cancer can be difficult to cope with both physically and emotionally. It’s important to find a support system to help you in your difficult times. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer then Uhapo provides a well-qualified cancer care service network that specializes in providing a variety of cancer treatments. To solve all your health-related queries you can consult us via our 24/7 support number +91-9137-44-1392 or you can reach us at https://www.uhapo.co.in/contact/ for all the necessary information on your condition.