Some of the common signs of cancer in the neck include:
- Lump in the neck
- Sore in the mouth or throat
- A sore throat that does not go away
- Difficulty swallowing
- Change or hoarseness in the voice
These symptoms could be signs of other less serious medical conditions. Consult your dentist or doctor to identify the exact cause of these symptoms.
The signs could be specific depending on the location of the cancerous tumor.
Symptoms of head and neck cancer in specific areas of the neck include:
- Oral cavity
- Nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses
- Salivary glands
- Swelling under the chin and jawbone
- Numb or paralyzed facial muscles
- Pain in the face, chin, or neck that does not go away
What is head and neck cancer?
Five main types of head and neck cancers are there based on the location of the tumor:
- Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer: Originate in the larynx or hypopharynx (the lower part of the larynx).
- Pharyngeal cancer: Develops in the throat that goes from behind the nose to the top of the esophagus.
- Nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancer: Originate in the nasal cavity or the air-filled areas surrounding the nasal cavity.
- Oral and oropharyngeal cancer: Originate in the oral cavity, including the mouth, tongue, and oropharynx area (the middle of the throat, from the tonsils to the tip of the larynx).
- Salivary gland cancer: Develops in the salivary gland that secretes saliva.
What are the risk factors for head and neck cancers?
Awareness of risk factors for neck cancer may help prevent it.
Some of the risk factors include:
- Human papillomavirus infection
- Alcohol abuse
- Smoking including passive smoking
- Occupational exposure
- Radiation exposure
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Chinese descent
- Having certain genetic conditions, such as Fanconi anemia, dyskeratosis congenita, connexin gene mutations, epidermolysis bullosa, or xeroderma pigmentosum
What are the stages of head and neck cancer?
Cancer staging helps decide the extent to which cancer has grown and spread.
|Stages||The extent of cancer spread|
|0||Carcinoma in situ. Abnormal cells are in the lining of the affected area and have the potential to become cancer.|
|I||The tumor is not larger than 2 cm and has not reached the lymph node.|
|II||The tumor is larger than 2 cm but not larger than 4 cm and has not reached the lymph nodes.|
|III||The tumor is either larger than 4 cm or has spread to a lymph node located on the same side of the neck as the tumor. The lymph node is smaller than 3 cm.|
The tumor could be of any size and has spread to:
How is head and neck cancer treated?
The treatment options for head and neck cancer include:
- Surgery: Surgical removal of a benign or malignant tumor is the primary treatment option. Apart from removing the tumor, your physician may remove the adjacent lymph node if the cancer has spread to this region.
- Radiation therapy: Utilizes high-energy rays to destroy cancerous cells. Depending on the type of radiation used, there are two types of radiation therapy.
- External beam radiation: The radiation comes from a machine kept outside the body.
- Internal radiation: The doctor puts radioactive material inside the body.
- Chemotherapy: Aims to kill or destroy cancer cells or prevent their differentiation. Chemotherapy is administered orally or intravenously.
- Targeted cancer therapy: Aims to prevent the mutations that cause the cells to grow uncontrollably or directly attack the specific cancer cells. They are less harmful than chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
- Immunotherapy: Drugs boost the immune system to fight cancer cells. The doctors may choose a single therapy or combine two or more therapy for the best results.
What is the survival rate of head and neck cancer?
Head and neck cancer account for four percent of all cancers in the United States. An estimation of 66,470 head and neck cancer cases and 15,050 deaths from the disease were predicted for 2022 in the United States.
The overall five-year survival rates (including stages) for some types of head and neck cancer are:
- Lip cancer: 91.4 percent
- Laryngeal cancer: 61 percent
- Oral cavity and pharynx cancer: 68 percent
- Tongue cancer: 68.8 percent
Head and Neck Cancers. https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/head-neck-fact-sheet
Head and Neck Cancer: What to Know. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/head-neck-cancer
Head and Neck Cancer Staging. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/types/head-neck/diagnosis/staging
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