Last Updated: 15th December, 2020
Head and Neck Cancer (HNC) is one in all the foremost common cancers in developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia. According to a 2017 study in Cancer Management and Research, it is the sixth most widespread cancer and responsible for 6% of all cancer instances globally. It is too common to men as compared to women. It is clinically referred to as Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC) because the squamous cells, that are the cells that line the surfaces of the different components of the body, turn cancerous.
Lets discuss in detail about the common types of Head and Neck Cancer (HNC) or Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC), causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.
What Causes Head And Neck Cancer (HNC) Or Head And Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC)?
Tobacco and alcohol use (which include smokeless tobacco, quite often known as “chewing tobacco” or “snuff“) have been the two biggest risk factors for Head and Neck Cancer (HNC) or Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC), particularly larynx, hypopharynx, oropharynx and oral cavity cancers.
People who currently use alcohol and cigarettes are at greater risk than individuals who have been using alcohol and tobacco alone to create cancers of this kind. Alcohol and tobacco consumption are not possible causes of the salivary gland cancers.
What Are Head And Neck Cancer (HNC) Symptoms?
Head and neck cancer (HNC) or Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer (HNSCC) encompass a range of tumors that originates within the hypopharynx, oropharynx, lip, oral cavity, nasopharynx, or larynx. There are few main forms of HNC that are named based on the a part of the head and neck they have an effect on. This is the rationale why the symptoms of head and neck cancer vary from one another.
Oral Cancer: It’s the kind of cancer that affects the lips, tongue, gums, inside the cheeks and mouth. The common symptoms of the carcinoma embody red/white patches within the mouth, swelling within the jaw, bleeding, and pain within the mouth.
Throat Cancer: Additionally referred to as the cancer of the pharynx, this sort of cancer affects the pharynx, a tube that originates from the nose and connects to the esophagus (food pipe). It includes the tonsils, back of the tongue and soft palate in the mouth. Throat cancer might show symptoms like pain while swallowing, neck or throat pain, an earache, difficulty in hearing and troubled breathing.
Larynx Cancer: Like the name suggests, it’s the cancer of the larynx, also known as the voice box. It is the structure that holds the vocal cords and epiglottis (a structure that hangs at the back of the throat). A few of larynx cancer’s prevalent signs and symptoms do seem to be ear pain, voice alterations, and swallowing painfully.
Nasal Cavity Cancer: It’s the sort of head and neck cancer (HNC) within which the nasal cavity, space inside the nose, is affected. It also affects the paranasal sinuses, which are the spaces present inside the bones around the nose. The symptoms to watch out for include headaches, nosebleeds, a toothache, blocked sinuses, chronic sinus infections, and swelling around the eyes.
Salivary Gland Cancer: Salivary glands, glands which produce saliva, are present on the floor of the mouth and near the jawbone. The symptoms that indicate cancer of the salivary glands embodies swelling below the chin or jawline, pain within the face and chin that fails to subside and numbness of the face muscles.
Although every form of cancer has some specific symptoms, there are a few general symptoms, furthermore. A few of the typical symptoms of head and neck cancer typically involve:
- Oral pain
- Ulcer in the oral cavity
- Difficulty in opening the mouth
- Enlargement of the nodes in the neck
- Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing)
- Odynophagia (painful swallowing)
- Dyspnoea (difficulty in breathing)
- Blood in your spit/phlegm
- Hoarseness of the voice
- Significant weight loss
How Is Head And Neck Cancer (HNC) Diagnosed?
Your doctor might, indeed, in most cases, perform a thorough physical exam with particular focus on the region of the head and neck. He would possibly even ask you for your clinical history and case history to look for risk factors of head and neck cancer (HNC). If he suspects anything wrong in the examination, he might also you get a few tests done. These include:
- Biopsy of fine needle aspiration involving sampling of an enlarged lump cell throughout the neck, salivary or thyroid glands using a needle.
- Biopsy (taking a tiny piece of tissue) of the ulceration or growth within the mouth, throat, nasal cavity, or a skin lesion.
- Radiology, together with an ultrasound of the neck, CT and MRI scan of the head and neck.
- Nuclear medication scanning, which incorporates the utilization of assorted isotope scans and PET scans.
At present, there are not any reliable blood tests or markers, unlike other cancers, that help us diagnose head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). Blood tests for thyroglobulin and calcitonin may be advised, which are the markers for different variants of thyroid cancers.
How Is HNC Treated?
After having a diagnosed, doctors assign a disease stage (cancers are staged I to IV) to cancer basis outcome of investigations. The treatment choices are mentioned among the surgical, radiation and medical oncologists, pathologists and radiologists. Treatments for head and neck cancer (HNC) are commonly defined as early cancer and progressed cancer treatment in the phase.
Early stage cancer (I and II) is usually treated with a single treatment modality that is surgery or radiotherapy. However, this depends upon the clinical presentation, and your doctor makes an informed decision based on various parameters. The choice of treatment is dictated by the site and type of cancer, and also the number of risk factors a patient has.
Highly developed stage cancer (III and IV) is generally treated with multimodal treatment involving two and sometimes even all three modalities of treatment, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, depending on medical evaluation.
A multidisciplinary approach to treatment is to be followed in addition with speech and swallowing therapists, psychological counselors and social and rehabilitation workers for better patient care and treatment outcome.