Head and Neck Cancer

Head and Neck Cancers

 images-2Cancers of the head and neck are generally categorized by the area of the head or neck in which they begin.  

Common causes of  head and neck cancers include tobacco (smoked or chewed), and alcohol. Other risk factors are sun exposure, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, radiation to the head and neck, Asian ancestry, Epstein-Barr virus infection, exposure to wood dust or airborne asbestos, consumption of certain preservatives or salted foods, poor oral hygiene, and Plummer-Vinson (also called Paterson-Kelly) syndrome.

Typical Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancers

Each of these regions listed below along with their common symptoms.

Oral cavity: You may see  white or red patch on the gums, the tongue, or the lining of the mouth.  Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable can occur.  In addition, unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth may be present. 

Pharynx:  You may experience Trouble breathing or speaking. Often there is pain when swallowing or pain in the neck or the throat that does not go away.  In addition you could experience frequent headaches, pain, or ringing in the ears; or trouble hearing.

Larynx: Most common symptom is pain when swallowing or ear pain.

Paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity: You may experience sinuses that are blocked and do not clear or chronic sinus infections that do not respond to treatment with antibiotics.  There can be bleeding through the nose.  Frequent headaches, swelling or other trouble with the eyes may occur.  You may also experience pain in the upper teeth or problems with dentures.

Salivary glands: Most common is swelling under the chin or around the jawbone, numbness or paralysis of the muscles in the face, or pain in the face, the chin, or the neck that does not go away.

Role of Radiation Therapy for Head and Neck Cancers