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Head and Neck Cancers Treatment
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Head and neck cancers are a wide range of cancers that occur in the head and neck region. Head and neck cancers tend to start in the squamous cells located in the soft surfaces inside the head and neck.

Types and Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancers

Mouth Cancer

Mouth cancer or oral cancer is cancer that develops in the oral cavity such as on the lips, tongue, gums, roof & floor of the mouth, and inner lining of the cheeks.

Symptoms of Mouth Cancer

Symptoms of mouth cancer include:

  • Pain in the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Mouth or lip sore that does not heal
  • Lump or growth inside the mouth
  • Reddish or white patch inside the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Ear pain

Lip Cancer

Lip cancer can occur on the upper or lower lip skin. Majority of lip cancers tend to be squamous cell carcinomas. This is because they start at the squamous cells which are the thin flat cells located in the upper and middle layers of the skin.

Symptoms of Lip Cancer

Symptoms of lip cancer include:

  • A white or red patch on the lip
  • A lesion, sore, blister, lump, or ulcer on the mouth that does not heal
  • Pain or bleeding on the lip
  • Tingling or numbness on the lip

Floor of the Mouth Cancer

Floor of the mouth cancer starts at the tissue that is beneath the tongue.

Symptoms

Symptoms of floor of the mouth cancer include:

  • Sour in the mouth that keeps growing larger and does not heal
  • Pain in the mouth
  • Red, white, or dark patches in the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lump in the neck

Esthesioneuroblastoma

This is a rare type of cancer that occurs in the upper portion of the nasal cavity. It begins as a tumor in the nasal cavity and can spread into the sinus eyes and brain. It can also extend to the lymph nodes in the neck and parotid glands. In the most severe cases, it can spread to other body organs such as the brain, lungs, liver, and bones.

Symptoms of Esthesioneuroblastoma

Symptoms of Esthesioneuroblastoma include:

  • Frequent nose bleeds
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose

Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

This type of cancer occurs in the nasopharynx. The nasopharynx is located behind the nose and above the back of the throat.

Symptoms of Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

The nasopharyngeal carcinoma does not show any symptoms in its early stages but some of the symptoms it shows while progressing include:

  • Blood in the saliva
  • Bloody discharge from the nose
  • Swollen lymph node that causes a lump in the neck
  • Sore throat
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Loss of hearing
  • Headaches

Nasal and Paranasal Tumors

Nasal and paranasal tumors begin in the nasal cavities which are the open spaces behind the nose. They are abnormal growths which can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

Symptoms

Symptoms of nasal and paranasal tumors can resemble those of colds or infections and they include:

  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Vision problems
  • Changes in voice and breathing
  • Blockage of sinuses that never goes away
  • Headache
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Facial swelling or pain
  • A lesion or sore on the roof of the mouth

Salivary Gland Tumors

These are abnormal growths that begin in the salivary glands. The major salivary glands are located under and behind the jaw. They are the parotid, sublingual, and submandibular. Although most salivary gland tumors are noncancerous, a few can be cancerous.

Symptoms

Symptoms of salivary gland tumors include:

  • Partial facial numbness
  • Swelling or a lump in the neck or mouth
  • Muscle weakness on one side of the face
  • Pain where the tumor is located
  • Difficulty opening the mouth widely
  • Difficulty in swallowing

Soft Palate Cancer

This is cancer that starts in the cells of the soft palate which is located behind the teeth on the upper portion in the back of the mouth.

Symptoms

Symptoms of soft palate cancer include:

  • Difficulty swallowing and breathing
  • Bad breath
  • Mouth pain
  • Mouth sores that won’t heal
  • Whitish patches in the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Swelling in the neck that may be painful
  • Bleeding in the mouth

Tongue Cancer

This type of cancer begins in the cells of tongue and it can cause tumors or lesions in the tongue. It can occur either on the front of the tongue (oral tongue cancer) or at the base of the tongue where it attaches to the bottom of the mouth (oropharyngeal cancer).

Symptoms of Tongue Cancer

Symptoms of tongue cancer include:

  • A persisting ulcer on the tongue
  • A persisting red or white patch on the tongue
  • Persisting sore throat
  • Persisting lump on the tongue
  • Mouth numbness
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Bleeding from the tongue

Tonsil Cancer

Tonsils are located at the back of the throat in the oropharynx area. They are a pair and their work is to help fight infection. Abnormal growth of cells can form in the tonsils resulting in tonsil cancer. Tonsil cancer can occur even in cases where the tonsil was removed.

Symptoms of Tonsil Cancer

Symptoms of tonsils include:

  • One tonsil being larger than the other one
  • Lump on the neck
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Ear pain

Thyroid Cancer

Thyroid cancer starts in the cells of the thyroid. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located at the base of the neck below the Adam’s apple. Its work is to regulate blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and weight.

Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer

Symptoms of thyroid cancer include:

  • A cough
  • Lump in the throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Painful neck and throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing

Causes of Head and Neck Cancers

Head and neck cancers occur due to genetic mutation of normal healthy cells that turn abnormal, multiply out of control as the healthy cells die. These abnormal cells form a tumor and can metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body.

Risk Factors of Head and Neck Cancers

Factors that can increase the risk of developing head and neck cancers include:

  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Tobacco usage
  • Being fair skinned
  • HPV
  • Prolonged exposure to UV rays
  • Weakened immune system
  • Long-term exposure to irritants and chemicals
  • Exposure to radiation

Diagnosis of Head and Neck Cancers

Diagnosing head and neck cancers involve tests and procedures such as:

  • Physical exam to look for abnormalities such as white patches, sores, and areas of irritation
  • Biopsy which is removing a cell sample to analyze for cancer
  • Imaging tests such as x-ray, MRI, CT, and PET scans to determine whether the cancer has spread

Treatment of Head and Neck Cancers

Head and neck cancer treatment is usually dependent on:

  • The aggressiveness of the cancer
  • Type of the cancer
  • Stage of the cancer
  • Size and location of the tumor
  • Age and overall health of the patient
  • History of cancer in the family
  • Gene mutation test results

Treatment options for head and neck cancer include:

  • Chemotherapy: This involves using chemicals to kill cancer and it increases the effectiveness of other treatments such as radiation and surgery by shrinking the size of the tumor.
  • Radiation: This uses high-energy beams to kill cancer cells. It is often used after surgery and it might be used alone or in combination with chemotherapy depending on the stage of the cancer.
  • Surgery: This is often used to remove the cancer and prevent it from spreading.
  • Immunotherapy: This works by boosting the immune system to fight off the cancer cells.
  • Targeted drug therapy: This treats cancer by altering the specific aspects of cancer cells that fuel their growth. The treatment can be done alone or in combination with radiation or chemotherapy.

Next Step

At King’s College Hospital Dubai, we focus on offering an exemplary service. From initial consultation through to final diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Our multidisciplinary team of expert doctors and nurses, and technologists led by Dr Hassan Ghazal – an American triple board-certified Consultant Medical Oncologist and a Consultant Clinical Hematologist with more than 3 decades of clinical experience, are here to offer tailored management and treatment of your condition, and to answer any questions that you may have throughout your time with us. Whatever you need us for, we’re only a phone-call away.

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