Head & Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancers usually form in the squamous cells lining the inside of the mouth, nose, and throat. They are highly curable if detected early, and often respond well treatment.
Cancers in this region are classified according to where they are located in the body. They include:
Paranasal sinuses. The sinus cavities located in the forehead, cheeks and behind the eyes.
Oral cavity. This region includes the lips, tongue, hard palate, gums, and mouth.
Pharynx. There are three sections of the throat: the nasopharynx (the upper portion, located behind the nose), oropharynx (the middle section, which includes the soft palate and tonsils), and hypopharynx (the lower portion).
Salivary glands. These are the glands that produce saliva and are located at the bottom of the mouth near the jawbone.
Larynx. This is the voice box and related structures.
Though located in the neck, thyroid cancers behave very differently than throat cancers. ENT surgeons treat these types of cancers as well.
Causes of Throat Cancer
The majority of neck and throat cancers are caused by tobacco use; smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco both substantially increase your risk of cancer. Alcohol use, especially in people who also smoke, is another contributing factor. Exposure to industrial toxins, Epstein-Barr virus, and acid reflux can all add to your risk. The risk factor associated with the most quickly growing type of head and neck cancer, particularly in younger patients, is the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus. Click here for more information on HPV associated throat cancer.
Symptoms of Throat Cancer
Many symptoms of throat cancer are associated with other, less serious conditions, so don’t worry needlessly if you experience some of these signs. Make an appointment with a doctor for a thorough exam and diagnosis if any of the following symptoms are persistent:
- Chronic cough (especially if you are coughing up blood).
- Hoarseness or other changes in your voice.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Lumps or sores on the neck.
- Ear or neck pain.
- Sore throat.
- Weight loss.
Your ENT doctor will attempt to rule out other, more common causes first. They will examine your throat with a lighted scope and likely order a biopsy if an abnormality is spotted. Imaging tests, including X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and PET scans, can help your doctor see how far a cancer might have spread. Once diagnosed, the cancer will be assigned a stage (I-IV) that indicates its extent and helps determine which course of treatment to pursue.
Our head and neck cancer specialist follows a team approach to outline your treatment plan. Treatment for throat cancer depends on the tumor’s size, location and whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Surgery, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy—or a combination of the three—may be recommended. Treatment and rehabilitation could include support from other professionals to maximize your ability to speak, eat, swallow and breathe.
Your cancer treatment team might include:
- Head and neck cancer surgeon (ENT, removes the tumor surgically)
- Medical oncologist (cancer physician, treats with chemotherapy)
- Radiation oncologist (administers radiation therapy)
- Radiologist (follow imaging and performs some types of biopsies)
- Speech and language pathologist
- Wound care nurse
If detected early, throat cancers have a cure rate of 90 percent. If cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes, it is curable in 50 to 60 percent of patients. They key is early diagnosis. If you are experiencing symptoms like those above, call us for a thorough check up from the neck up.
We are here to ease your worries, call DeFatta ENT & Allergy at (715) 828-2368 for more information or to schedule an appointment.