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head-and-neck-cancer

Head and neck cancer

Head & neck cancer is a group of cancers that can affect the mouth, sinuses, nose or throat. It usually starts from the squamous cells inside the head and neck, but in some cases, it can also occur in the salivary glands. In some cases, cancer can also originate in the lymph nodes of the upper neck. Based on its origin and position, this cancer is categorized into several types, which are:

  • Oral cancer
  • Neck cancer
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer
  • Oropharyngeal cancer
  • Sinus and nasal cavity cancer
  • Salivary gland cancer

Symptoms:

In most cases, cancer doesn’t cause any symptoms until it becomes malignant. However, various symptoms might indicate the advancement of cancer and help with the diagnosis. These symptoms may include:

  • Oral cavity
  • Bleeding in mouth
  • Difficulty in eating, breathing or speaking
  • Thyroid issues
  • Hearing issues
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Swelling or numbness around the jaw
    • In most cases, these symptoms are often mistaken for other less critical conditions. Therefore, it’s essential to check with an expert if anyone has any of these symptoms.

      Causes:

      Cancer is caused when cells in the head or neck start mutating and become malignant. Over time, these malignant cells can accumulate into a cancerous tumour and spread to other parts of the head and neck.

      Risk factors:

      While the exact cause of cell mutation is unknown, other factors also increase the risk of cancer. 75% of head and neck cancers are caused by smoking, tobacco and alcohol use. Other risk factors for head and neck cancer include:

      • Smoking
      • Heavy drinking
      • Poor oral hygiene
      • Genetic disorders
      • Occasional exposure
      • Radiation exposure

      Diagnosis:

      To find the cause of the symptoms, our doctor will evaluate the patient’s medical history and perform a physical exam to check for signs and symptoms. If they suspect cancer, they may also perform additional tests to determine the extent of cancer. These tests can include:

      • X-rays to check if cancer has spread to the jaw, chest, or lungs.
      • CT scan to identify any tumours in the mouth, throat or neck.
      • Endoscopy to examine the nasal passages, sinuses, inner throat, windpipe, and trachea.
      • PET scan to determine if cancer has originated or spread into lymph nodes.
      • MRI scan for a more accurate image of the head and neck and determine the extent of cancer.
      • Biopsy to take a small sample from the infected area and then check it for cancerous cells.

      Treatment:

      Based on the diagnosis, our doctors will develop the most effective treatment plan to remove cancer and reduce the chance of recurrence. While surgery is the most common treatment, it may also include radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combined therapy to improve the outcome.

      Surgery:

      It involves removing the cancerous tumour along with the surrounding tissues, such as lymph nodes or salivary glands. They may also take out other tissues from around the mouth and neck, which can reduce the chances of cancer relapse or recurrence. Our doctors may also perform reconstructive surgeries to repair the missing tissues and assist with the rehabilitation.

      Chemotherapy:

      In chemotherapy, our doctors will use a group of drugs to stop cancer from spreading. Cancer cells absorb the drugs faster than normal cells, thus slowing their growth. These drugs can be delivered through a vein or a catheter, depending on the stage of cancer.

      Radiation therapy:

      Our surgeon will use controlled radiation to damage or destroy the DNA of cancer cells. Our radiation oncologist will use a machine to direct the energy beams on the cancer cells. It can be used in combination with chemotherapy if surgery isn’t an option.

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