Head and Neck Cancer
- Head and neck cancer facts*
- What is cancer?
- What kinds of cancers are considered cancers of the head and neck?
- How common are head and neck cancers?
- What causes head and neck cancers?
- What are common symptoms of head and neck cancers?
- How are head and neck cancers diagnosed?
- What health professionals treat patients with head and neck cancers?
- How are head and neck cancers treated?
- Are clinical trials (research studies) available for patients with head and neck cancers?
- What rehabilitation or support options are available for patients with head and neck cancers?
- Is follow-up treatment necessary? What does it involve?
- What can people who have had head and neck cancer do to reduce the risk of developing a second primary (new) cancer?
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
Head and neck cancer facts*
*Head and Neck Cancer Facts by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOE
- Cancers of the head and neck are identified by the area in which they begin: the oral cavity, salivary glands, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx (voicebox), and lymph nodes in the neck. Cancers of the brain, eye, thyroid gland, scalp, skin, muscles, and bones of the head and neck are not usually grouped with cancers of the head and neck.
- The main causes of head and neck cancers include tobacco (smoked or chewed), and alcohol. Other risk factors are sun exposure, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, radiation to the head and neck, Asian ancestry, Epstein-Barr virus infection, exposure to wood dust or airborne asbestos, consumption of certain preservatives or salted foods, poor oral hygiene, and Plummer-Vinson (also called Paterson-Kelly) syndrome.
- Common symptoms of several head and neck cancer sites include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice. Symptoms may differ according to the part of the head or neck that is cancerous.
- Exams and tests conducted to diagnose head and neck cancer vary depending on the symptoms and may include a biopsy, endoscopy, blood or urine tests, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans.
- Treatment for head and neck cancers depends on the exact location of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, and the person's age and general health. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.
- Depending on the location of the cancer and the type of treatment, rehabilitation may include physical therapy, dietary counseling, speech therapy, and/or learning how to care for a stoma after a laryngectomy. Some patients may need reconstructive and plastic surgery.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/15/2014
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