April is Oral Health Month. It is a good time to discuss head and neck cancers.
Regular head and neck exams are extremely important when it comes to diagnosing problems with the head and neck cancer. Any unusual or peculiar changes can be a menacing threat to your good health.
Paying attention really matters because it is important to deal swiftly with unwelcome changes.
Head and neck cancer refer to tumours that develop in the oral cavity including the back of the mouth or throat, lip and mouth. They can also strike in the nasal cavity, sinuses, salivary glands, throat and larynx or voice box. Changes can begin in the cells lining the mouth, nose and throat including thyroid.
There are two main types of head and neck cancers pharyngeal and laryngeal. Symptoms will occur depending on the type and location. Here are some unwelcoming symptoms that may be an indication of a head or neck cancer.
- Changes in your voice. Hoarseness or persistent cough.
- A lump in the neck, throat, a firm red nodule or a lesion.
- Nasal or mouth bleeding. Nosebleeds and sore throats.
- Red or white patches , bleeding, growths or sores in your mouth including the gums and tongue.
- Difficulty chewing or painful swallowing.
- Blood in spit or phlegm.
- Swelling in or around the jaw or lymph nodes.
- Persistent pain in your face, chin, ear, neck or in the tongue or jaw.
- Numb or paralyzed facial muscles.
- Chronic sinus infections or blocked sinuses and trouble breathing.
- Headaches, swelling around the eyes and pain in your upper teeth. Mouth pain that radiates to the arm.
- Changes in the surrounding skin that may suggest skin cancer
If head or neck cancer is suspected, a diagnosis is made following a range of tests. These tests may include blood tests, urine tests, Endoscopy or tissue biopsy as well as physical examination. Additionally X-rays, Ultrasound and scans such as a CT scan, MRI, bone scan or a PET scan may be done.
Treatment includes a number of options that depends on where the cancer started and how advanced it is. Other considerations also include age, patient preferences, overall health and possible side effects. A small tumour when detected early may have one treatment approach, while for a late stage cancer multiple therapies may be the chosen interventions.
- Surgery, Excision to remove the cancerous tumour. Lymph node dissection or neck dissection.
- Radiation therapy regimen, that use of high-energy x-rays or other particles to destroy cancer cells.
- As well there is chemotherapy. Or Immunotherapy designed to boost the body's natural defences to fight the cancer that is harmful and conceivably life-threatening.
- Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancers specific genes and proteins to block the growth and spread of cancer cells.
- Laser technology and Reconstructive (plastic) surgery.
This condition can adversely impact your quality of life. Head and neck cancers are often diagnosed late, and pain is commonly a late stage symptom. It is a good thing to perform self-checks on a regular basis. See your physician for a correct diagnosis.
Always, be attentive and vigilant to head and neck changes. When detected early outcomes can be improved and with managed care survival rates are high.