Head and Neck Cancer

Head & Neck Cancers can be prevented, screened and treated.

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What are Head and Neck Cancers?

The cancers arising from the mucosal lining of mouth, throat, nose and paranasal sinuses are collectively known as Head and Neck Cancers. It is the sixth most prevalent cancer in the world. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer affecting the head and neck. It is treatable when diagnosed in early stage.

Risk factors for Head and Neck cancer are:

  • Tobacco smoking – Throat cancer, lung cancer among others
  • Tobacco chewing – Oral cancer, stomach cancer among others
  • Gutka
  • Paan
  • Supaari
  • Khaini
  • Alcohol

How to diagnose and stage Head and Neck Cancers?

Diagnosis of head and neck cancer starts with history and clinical examination. It usually presents with a non healing ulcer in the oral cavity, growth in the nose and paranasal sinuses that may bleed and persistent hoarseness or swallowing difficulty for throat cancers. Some head and neck cancers may present with a lump in the neck. After due clinical suspicion a tissue biopsy or needle biopsy is must for diagnosis of cancer.

Staging of cancer is done by CT and/or MRI scans. Whole body PET scan is advised when a clinician wants to rule out disease spread to other parts of the body. The information received from each of these is different and not all may be indicated in all patients.

What are the different treatments available for Head and Neck Cancers?

Treatment decision is made after the diagnosis is confirmed by biopsy and staging is completed by imaging.

Based of the combination of biopsy and staging there are three modalities of treatment available:

  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy

Surgery and Radiotherapy are more commonly used for treatment of Head and Neck Cancers. However, a permutation and combination of all three may be needed in some patients.

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