Home | Articles | What is Head and Neck Cancer, and can it be cured?

By Dr Sowdepalli Avinash
Published on 15/12/2022

Did you know?
80%-90% of people can survive head and neck cancer if diagnosed and treated in the early stages! Cancer that develops in the throat, mouth, salivary glands, nose, oral cancers, or other head and neck parts is known as head and neck cancer. If detected early, head and neck cancer can be prevented and cured. The issue in treating is striking a fine balance between total cancer removals and ensuring that the patient does not lose the ability to talk, swallow, or breathe, or has a significant alteration of facial features.

Every patient with head and neck cancer is not the same.

Yes! Head and neck cancers and their related side effects may make it difficult for patients to swallow, breathe, or eat due to their position. Let's understand more about this cancer!

What is Head and Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancers are a type of cancer that begins in the cells that line the throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), or mouth. These are known as squamous cells. Head and neck cancers form in the sinuses or salivary glands less often. Squamous cell carcinoma, named after the cell that transforms into a cancer cell, is the most common type of head and neck cancer.
Treatment for head and neck cancer is decided by the type, position, and size of cancer. Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are common treatments for head and neck cancers. After treatment, recovery from head and neck cancers may require work with rehabilitation specialists and other experts to manage side effects such as difficulty eating, hearing loss, dental problems, difficulty breathing, thyroid issues, or difficulty speaking.

‚ÄčTypes Of Head And Neck Cancer

Here are the different types of head and neck cancer:

  • Oral cancer:

    Cancer that develops in the lips, tongue, gums, cheek and lip lining, top and bottom of the mouth, or behind the wisdom teeth.

  • Oropharyngeal cancer:

    Cancer of the throat's middle section (oropharynx). The most prevalent type of oropharyngeal cancer is tonsil cancer.

  • Hypopharyngeal cancer:

    Cancer at the lower portion of the throat (hypopharynx).

  • Laryngeal cancer:

    Cancer of the voice box (larynx), which holds the vocal cords.

  • Nasopharyngeal cancer:

    Cancer in the throat's upper portion (nasopharynx).

  • Salivary gland cancer:

    Salivary gland cancer affects the glands that create saliva (spit).

  • Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer:

    Cancer that grows in the hollow area within the nose (nasal cavity) or the hollow gaps in the nose's bones (paranasal sinuses).

Risk factors for head and neck cancer: Who is most likely to get head and neck cancer?

Men are up to 3 times more likely than women to be diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Age also has a factor, and most people are diagnosed after the age of 50. Certain factors, especially smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as HPV infection, can raise the risk of developing head and neck cancer.

Know the signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer

Head and neck cancer can be difficult to detect because symptoms are often mild and can mimic less severe disorders such as a cold or sore throat. A chronic sore throat is the most common sign of head and neck cancer. Symptoms include:

Can neck and head cancer be cured?

Yes, neck and head cancer can be cured! If the cancer is detected and treated early, the chances of a cure increase. Small cancers that have not spread are potentially treatable as well.
Many factors determine the outcome, including the type of cancer, age, general health, and response to treatment. Speak with the doctor about the prognosis based on the specific cancer diagnosis.

How is head and neck cancer treated?

Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are the three main treatments for head and neck cancer. The doctor may also recommend newer treatments, such as targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

Surgery:

Surgeons may remove the tumor as well as a margin of healthy tissue around it. If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, the surgeon may also remove these.

Radiation therapy:

The common type of radiation for head and neck cancers is a machine that delivers high-energy X-rays at cancer (EBRT). Radiation therapy might also help ease symptoms.

Chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy cures cancer by using a single medicine or a combination of drugs. It is typically used for advanced-stage head and neck cancers.

Targeted therapy:

This type of cancer treatment targets proteins that control the growth and spread of cancer cells. It is the basis of precision medicine. These medications are intended to treat specific types of cancer. They are usually used with other therapies to treat advanced head and neck cancers.

Immunotherapy:

This is a type of treatment in which substances are used to stimulate the immune system to help the body fight against cancer, infection, and other disorders. Specific methods of immunotherapy exclusively specifically target immune system cells. Immunotherapy medications stimulate (or strengthen) the immune system, efficiently identifying and eliminating cancer cells.

The doctor may also recommend palliative care. Palliative care providers include doctors, nurses, social workers, and others who specialize in assisting people with chronic diseases. They can supplement cancer care by supporting patients in making treatment decisions and managing daily affairs. No matter what stage of cancer patients are at, palliative care can improve the quality of life.

Now the question is; How can I prevent head and neck cancer?

To protect yourself, follow these preventive steps:

Quit tobacco:

To reduce the risk of head and neck cancer, quit using any tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snuff, dip, and chewing tobacco).

Cut back on drinking:

Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption can lower the risk of developing these cancers.

Get the HPV vaccine:

The HPV vaccine protects against various HPV types, including those that cause oropharyngeal cancer. It is most effective in preventing HPV if taken before intercourse. Even so, it may be advantageous up until the age of 45. Consult the doctor to see if you would benefit from the immunisation.

If anyone already has cancer, quitting tobacco and alcohol can reduce the risk of it coming back (returning). Cancers can also be stopped in their tracks by consulting a doctor as soon as any symptoms occur.

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