What is Head and Neck cancer ?
Most head and neck cancers begin in the cells that line the mucosal surfaces in the head and neck area, e.g., mouth, nose, and throat. Mucosal surfaces are moist tissues lining hollow organs and cavities of the body open to the environment. Normal mucosal cells look like scales (squamous) under the microscope, so head and neck cancers are often referred to assquamous cell carcinomas. Some head and neck cancers begin in other types of cells. For example, cancers that begin in glandular cells are called adenocarcinomas.
Types of Head and Neck Cancer.
- Nasaopharyngeal Cancer :The nasopharynx is the airway passageway at the upper part of the nose at the back of the nose.
- Salivary Gland Cancer :Saliva produced by the salivary gland is the fluid that is released within the mouth in order to keep the mouth moist. Mouth helps in breaking down the food as it contains certain enzymes
- Hypopharyngeal and Laryngeal Cancer :A tube shaped organ located in the neck used for swallowing, breathing and talking is the larynx. The hypopharnx, also referred to as gullet, is the lower part of the throat surrounding the larynx.
- Oropharyngeal and Oral Cancer :Both tongue and the mouth is included in the oral cavity. The middle part of the throat is included in oropharynx.
- Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer :The air-filled areas surrounding the nasal cavity is known as the paranasal sinuses. The space at the back of the nose from where air passes on the way to the throat is known as the nasal cavity.
Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer.
These are common symptoms of head and neck cancer in general.
- an ulcer or sore area in the head or neck that does not heal within a few weeks
- difficulty in swallowing, or pain when chewing or swallowing
- trouble with breathing or speaking, such as persistent noisy breathing, slurred speech or a hoarse voice
- a numb feeling in the mouth or on the lips
- an unexplained loose tooth
- a persistent blocked nose, or nose bleeds
- a constant sore throat and earache affecting one side
- ringing in the ear, or difficulty in hearing
- a swelling or lump in the mouth or neck
- pain in the face or upper jaw
- in people who smoke or chew tobacco, pre-cancerous changes can occur in the lining of the mouth, or on the tongue. These can appear as persistent white patches (leukoplakia) or red patches (erythroplakia). They are usually painless but can sometimes be sore and may bleed.
Head and Neck Cancers Diagnosis:-
- Physical Examinationmay include visual inspection of the oral and nasal cavities, neck, throat, and tongue using a small mirror and/or lights. The doctor may also feel for lumps on the neck, lips, gums, and cheeks.
- Endoscopy: a laryngoscope is inserted through the mouth to view the larynx; an esophagoscope is inserted through the mouth to examine the esophagus; and a nasopharyngoscope is inserted through the nose so the doctor can see the nasal cavity and nasopharynx.
- Laboratory testsexamine samples of blood, urine, or other substances from the body.
- X-rayscreate images of areas inside the head and neck on film.
- CT (or CAT) Scanis a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the head and neck created by a computer linked to an x-ray machine.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or MRI)uses a powerful magnet linked to a computer to create detailed pictures of areas inside the head and neck.
- PET Scanuses sugar that is modified in a specific way so it is absorbed by cancer cells and appears as dark areas on the scan.
- Biopsyis the removal of tissue. A pathologist studies the tissue under a microscope to make a diagnosis. A biopsy is the only sure way to tell whether a person has cancer.
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