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Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

Cancer can begin at any place in the body. Cancer depends on where it starts. When cancer starts in the part of the head or neck and grows out of control and crowd out healthy cells, it makes it hard for the body to operate the way it should.

Head and neck cancer can sometimes travel to the lungs and grow there.

There are diverse types of head and neck cancer. Some of the most prevalent types are:

  • Oral cavity cancer – This cancer starts in the mouth
  • Oropharyngeal cancer – This cancer starts in the back of the mouth or the throat
  • Nasal cavity cancer – This cancer starts in the opening behind the nose.
  • Paranasal sinus cancer – This cancer starts in the openings around or near the nose called sinuses
  • Nasopharyngeal cancer – This cancer starts in the upper part of the throat behind the nose
  • Laryngeal cancer – This cancer starts in the voice box
  • Hypopharyngeal cancer – This cancer starts in the lower part of the throat beside and behind the voice box

Carcinoma is the most common type of cancer in the head and neck area. This cancer starts in the cells that line all parts of the nose, mouth, and throat.

Schedule an appointment with your doctor to diagnose the symptoms and to determine the treatment.

Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancers

Following are the symptoms of the head and neck cancer:

  • A lump or a sore that is not healing
  • A pain in the neck or sore throat that does not go away
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Change or hoarseness in the voice
  • Frequent headaches
  • Pain when swallowing or ear pain.
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Numbness or paralysis of the muscles in the face, or pain in the face, or neck

Diagnosis

Here are some of the tests you may need:

  • Complete head and neck exam: The doctor will examine the head and neck area to look out for unusual areas.
  • Panendoscopy: The surgeon will examine inside your nose, mouth, and throat through thin tubes called scopes and take out a tissue to analyze in the lab.
  • Biopsy: The doctor may take out a small piece of tissue to check for any cancer cells.
  • CT scan: The doctor may ask for a certain kind of x-ray that takes detailed pictures to see if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, or other organs.
  • MRI scans: MRI scans are radio waves and strong magnets used to learn more about the size of cancer and look for other tumors.
  • Barium swallow: The person is asked to swallow a liquid with barium in it, and then X-ray is done to get the right image of the inside surface of the throat.
  • Chest x-rays: If cancer has spread to the lungs, then it is recommended.
  • PET scan: The cancer is detected utilizing a particular type of sugar that can be seen inside your body with a special camera. Where the cancer is identified, the sugar shows up as hotspots.
  • Blood tests:Blood tests will tell the doctor about your comprehensive health.

Treatment

The doctor will use diverse ways to treat head or neck cancer, but the chief types of treatment are local or systemic.

The local treatment includes surgery and radiation as they do not affect the rest of the body. The systemic treatment includes Chemo and targeted therapy drugs that go through the whole body.

Doctors frequently use both local and systemic treatments for head and neck cancers. The treatment plan that’s best for you will depend on:

  • Where the cancer is
  • The stage of the cancer
  • The type of treatment will eliminate cancer or help in some way
  • How the treatment will affect your overall well-being without side effects
  • Your age
  • Other health problems you have
  • How you feel about the treatment and the side effects that come with it

Following are the treatments used:

  • Surgery for head or neck cancer:The surgeon can remove all or some cancerous tissue in the tongue, throat, voice box, windpipe, or jaw bone. If lymph nodes in the neck haven’t gotten better with other treatments, surgery is implemented.
  • Radiation treatments: A powerful beam of energy is used to target and eliminate cancerous cells before and after surgery. It is exercised to kill any cancer cells that may be left after surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells and restrict the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy provides relief to patients by intake of drugs, which goes into the blood and spread through the body.
  • Targeted Therapy: These drugs mainly perturb cancer cells and not normal cells. These drugs may work even if Chemo doesn’t, or they may help Chemo work well.
  • Immunotherapy: In immunotherapy drugs encourage your immune system to attack cancer.
  • Supportive (palliative) care: To provide relief from pain and other symptoms of a severe illness, palliative care is provided. Palliative care can be used while undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.

After Treatment

After the treatment gets over, you should keep seeing your doctor for follow up. These follow up visits will ensure that cancer never returns. You will keep having regular blood tests and maybe other tests if cancer does come back.

Call your doctor to find out what you can do to feel better. Your doctor may advise you to make healthy choices for your better well-being.

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