Dr. Shekhar Salkar

Senior Consultant - Surgical Oncology

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Dr. Shekhar Salkar

Senior Consultant - Surgical Oncology

Manipal Hospitals, Goa

Diagnosis and Management for Head and Neck Cancer

Posted On: Sep 02, 2022

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment in Goa

Head and neck cancer involves the different cancer types that affect the head and neck regions within the body. The most common causes of head and neck cancer are the regular consumption of tobacco and alcohol. These cancer types can only be treated and prevented if diagnosed at an early stage. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a known risk factor for certain head and neck cancers.

Head and neck cancers constitute almost 3%-5% of all cancer types. It mainly originates in the squamous cells, involving the lining of the mouth, nose, and throat. Some of the most common head and neck cancers include:

  • Oral Cavity

This condition affects the mouth organs such as the lips, tongue, gums, cheek and lip lining, bottom and top of the mouth, and behind the wisdom teeth.

  • Salivary glands

These glands produce saliva to keep the mouth and throat moist. The major glands are located at the bottom of the mouth and near the jawbone.

  • Sinuses

It is the hollow space within the bones that surrounds the nose.

  • Nasal cavity

It is the hollow region inside the nose.

  • Tonsils

  • Throat (pharynx)

  • Voicebox (larynx)

  • Ears

  • Lymph nodes in the upper neck region 

Head and neck cancer affects adults belonging to the age group of 50 and more often occurs in men. Visit our Cancer Hospital in Goa to have more clarity on the risk factors involved with head and neck cancer. Some of the risk factors include:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Alcohol and tobacco consumption 

  • Exposure to radiation and asbestos

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Ethnicity

  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection

There are some common symptoms of head and neck cancer that involve the persistent sore throat, difficulty swallowing, a mouth sore that does not heal and a hoarse voice. Other symptoms vary as per the different organs related to the head and neck, including the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth

  • The occurrence of red and white patches in the mouth

  • Swelling in jaw

  • Difficulty in opening the mouth

  • Ear pain

  • Pain during swelling 

  • Difficulty in speaking and breathing

  • Frequent headaches

  • Chronic sinus infections

  • Tooth pain, sore gums and loose teeth

  • Unexplained nose bleeding

  • Facial numbness or paralysis 

  • Hearing loss

  • A painless mass in the neck

Diagnosis and evaluation of head and neck cancer

The diagnostic approach for head and neck cancer involves a medical history, identification of risk factors and related symptoms, and performing a physical examination. Some imaging tests are also performed for diagnosing the cancer type, which is illustrated below:

  • Nasopharyngolaryngoscopy 

  • Head MRI

  • CT scan of the sinuses

  • CT scan of head 

  • Panoramic dental x-ray

  • Dental cone-beam CT scan

  • PET CT scan 

  • Chest imaging

Other diagnostic tests include fine needle aspiration (FNA). Biopsies are also used to determine the presence of cancer in an individual. Biopsies are more correctly performed with image guidance involving ultrasound, x-ray, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment and management of Head and Neck Cancer

Determining the specific stage of head and neck cancer is the initial step toward its treatment, consult with a Surgical Oncologist in Goa to know your condition. Mostly, stage I and II cancers are not dangerous as they do not spread to other body parts from their original location and can be cured. Stage III and IV cancers spread to nearby lymph nodes and form large tumours. Hence, it requires complicated treatment and may have a very low chance of cure. The most common treatment for head and neck cancer involves:

  • Surgery

  • Radiation therapy

  • Chemotherapy

Developments in head and neck cancer treatment

New treatments have been developed for treating head and neck cancer that mainly involve the use of drugs that aim to block the hormones, causing some tumour cells to multiply. This is known as hormone therapy, which makes tumours sensitive to radiation. Another development includes immunotherapy, newer radiation techniques, and advanced surgical techniques for removing the tumour.

Prevention Tips from Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers are preventable. Some of the preventive measures include:

  • Quitting tobacco

Quitting all types of tobacco and related products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snuff, etc. reduces the chances of head and neck cancer.

  • Limiting alcohol consumption

Reducing the consumption of alcohol reduces the chances of head and neck cancer.

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination

HPV causes head and neck cancer, mainly causing oropharyngeal cancer. The HPV vaccination is effective in preventing head and neck cancer at a young age (up to 26 years).

Dr. Shekhar Salkar

Senior Consultant - Surgical Oncology

Manipal Hospitals, Goa

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