Detection and treatment of Head and Neck Cancer

Most head and neck cancers commence in the cells that line the mucosal surfaces, e.g., mouth, nose, and throat. Most of the head and neck cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. Cancers that begin in glandular cells are called adenocarcinoma. Head and neck cancers often spread to the lymph nodes of the neck, often the first sign of the disease at the time of diagnosis.

Head and neck cancer is strongly associated with certain environmental and lifestyle risk factors, including tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, UV light, particular chemicals used in certain workplaces. Certain strains of viruses, such as human papillomavirus also associated with head and neck cancer. Sometimes, squamous cancers are found in neck the lymph nodes of without metastasis. Adenoid cystic cancer is a rare types of cancer of the head neck and throat, in particular the salivary glands. Head neck and throat cancer is highly curable if detected early.

Alcohol and tobacco use are the most common causes of throat cancer. Cigar smoking, excessive consumption of processed meats and red meat were associated with increased rates of cancer of the head and neck, Betel nut chewing, Epstein-Barr virus, Gastro esophageal reflux disease, Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation are other important risk factors for oral cancers.

Throat cancer usually begins with symptoms like an enlarged lymph node on the outside of the neck, a sore throat or a hoarse sounding voice. But the throat cancer symptom persists and become chronic with painful swallowing and speaking, persistent earache, numbness or paralysis of the face muscles.

Throat cancer survival rate refers to the time duration for which the patient survives after the diagnosis and the chance of re-occurrence after the treatment. The treatment depends on the throat cancer stages. Stage 0 throat cancers can be treated by removing the affected tissue. Stage I or II throat cancers require surgery, radiation therapy or both. Stage III or IV throat cancers likely will require a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Most cancers at later stages require the removal of part or all of the larynx or pharynx.

Avoidance of recognized risk factors is the single most effective form of head and neck cancer treatment. Regular dental examinations may identify pre-cancerous lesions in the oral cavity. The throat cancer prognosis is much better if the cancer is diagnosed before it spreads.

Surgery as a treatment is frequently used in most types of head neck and throat cancer. The goal is to remove the cancerous cells entirely.

CO2 laser surgery is also another form of treatment for throat cancer. Transoral laser microsurgery allows surgeons to remove tumors from the voice box with no external incisions. This technique helps give the patient as much speech and swallowing function as possible after surgery

Chemotherapy prevents the metastases of cancer. Typical chemotherapy agents are a combination of paclitaxel and carboplatin. Cetuximab is also used in the treatment of throat cancer.

Radiation therapy is the most common form of treatment for head and neck cancer. There are different forms of radiation therapy, including 3D conformal radiation therapy, intensity-modulated radiation therapy, and brachytherapy, which are commonly used in the treatments of throat and neck cancer.

Photodynamic therapy may have promise in treating mucosal dysplasia and small neck and head cancer. Targeted therapy uses drugs or other substances, such as monoclonal antibodies, to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells.
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