Head and Neck
Cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract (improperly cancer of the head and neck) refers to
any malignant tumor localized in the upper aerodigestive organ or tissue, which includes the sinuses, nasal
cavity, pharynx (composed of the nasopharynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx), the oral cavity (the lips, cheeks, gums, the hard palate, area under the
tongue, and others) and the larynx. Regardless of the organ affected, these types of cancer sharing some similitude
related to consuming alcohol and tobacco. In other words, cancer of the head and neck is most common among
smokers and heavy alcohol consumers.
When the cancer affects
the nasal cavity it is more commonly found in the skin of the nostrils and nasal mucosa. There is also nasopharyngeal cancer which
affects the highest part of the throat; and paranasal sinus cancer, which starts from the lining air -filled
space (sinus) along the nose in the facial bones. A cancer can also occur in the hypopharynx
ypopharyngealCancer), thelower side of the
pharynx. Cancer can also occur in the oropharynx, the tube that
connects the nose to the throat. This includes the base of the tongue, the
soft palate (soft palate) and the sides and back of the throat including the
Larynx cancer tends to
start on one of the vocal cords or near thereto. The larynx is also called Adam's apple. If you sink your fingers along the front of your throat you will feel your larynx as a
bump up and down when you swallow. This bump is larger in men than in women. Other types of rare cancers of the head and
neck include lymphomas, sarcomas and melanomas.
Causes of Cancers of the
Head and Neck
The exact causes of cancer
of the head and neck are not known. It is, however, known that this cancer is not infectious. Cancers of the
head and neck cannot be contracted by contact with another person, such as a cold or a cough.
It is known that some factors increase the
risk of developing cancer of the head and neck:
Certain Cancers of the head and neck seem to be caused by specific factors.
For example, nasopharyngeal cancer has been associated with Epstein- Barr virus (EBV),
a very common virus which is also responsible for Infectious mononucleosis. EBV causes no cancer by
itself, and it is not known why it is bound to tumor cells in certain cancer patients.
Symptoms of Head and Neck
The first symptom of a
cancer of the head and neck is a painless swelling of some of these glands. But many symptoms may be
indicative of cancer of the head and neck are rather common symptoms and are present in many other diseases.
They do not necessarily mean that you have the cancer. It is therefore important that you consult your
doctor, especially if the symptoms last more than a few weeks. Symptoms of cancer of the head and neck
will vary depending on the site of the tumor. For instance, a nasopharyngeal cancer can lead to persistent
Symptoms of cancer of the
head and neck are in particular:
Swelling around the eyes or double vision
Pain in the
face or upper jaw
Numbness in the
Bleeding in the mouth or
Swelling or lump in the mouth
wound or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal in a few
red and white
patches in the mouth that can be painful or bleeding sometimes
Pain or difficulty swallowing
Persistent pain or numbness of
the throat or part of the face
Persistent hoarseness or voice
Difficulty breathing or
persistent obstruction of the
nose or sinuses, or nose bleeds
Ear pain persistent ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or hearing
Swelling of one or more glands (lymph nodes) in the neck.
Specific symptoms of
Hoarseness is often the first symptom of
cancer of the larynx because even a small tumor can interfere with the normal functioning of the vocal cords.
If the cancer has started elsewhere in the larynx, the first symptom may be a lump in the throat or neck
discomfort or pain when swallowing. Ear pain, continuous or increasing shortness of breath sensation may also
Head and Neck Cancer
There is no unique
treatment for neck and head cancer but it often includes Surgery, Chemotherapy and Photodynamic Therapy.
Your doctor will decide your treatment depending
on the type and size of the cancer and its spreading characteristic. The health care provider will also take
into account your age and your general condition. Your treatment may be different if you
have been treated for cancer of the head or neck that has recurred.
It is important that you
ask all the questions you want about your treatment. It may be helpful to make a list of questions before seeing your doctor. If necessary,
you may choose to be accompanied by a family member or a friend during the consultation. Different types of
treatment can be administered alone or in combination.
Some other therapies such
as surgical therapy and radiation therapy can be performed only once at the site depending on the location of
the tumor. For non-operable cancers chemotherapy and photodynamic therapy can be administered
You can find other people
with the same cancer receive different treatments from yours. This is because the same type of cancer can take different forms, and requires
different treatments. Doctors also have their own conception of treatment. Most of them have no objection to refer you to another specialist so that you can have
a second opinion. It is important, however, if you feel that a second opinion may help that you see another
You may be seeking to
participate in a clinical trial. These medications are compared with different treatments and are approved by specific
ethical health organizations or committees. Your doctor will discuss the trials with you so that you can understand what involved
and what to expect. You are not required to participate in a trial, but it is often in your interest to do
so, and you can terminate your participation at any time.