Head and Neck Cancer

Head and Neck Cancer

Cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx or voice box, sinuses, nasal cavity and saliva glands are collectively known as head and neck cancers. These cancers affect about 1 in every 10,000 people, which translates to 25 to 30 new head and neck cancer cases in the northeast Georgia area each year. It is most commonly seen in middle aged and older individuals who smoke or chew tobacco, but it can occur in all ages regardless of tobacco use. Alcohol consumption is an additional risk factor for developing oral, throat and larynx cancers in people who also use tobacco products.

Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms

The most common cancer type is squamous cell carcinoma since squamous cells form the lining of the nose, mouth, throat and larynx. Diagnosis can be difficult and is often delayed due to difficulty in examining the hidden areas of the nose and throat. There are common signs and symptoms, however, which could alert one to the presence of squamous cell cancer. These include a firm and growing neck mass, persistent hoarseness or trouble swallowing, persistent pain, a non-healing ulcer or sore in the mouth, and recurrent or persistent nose bleed with nasal obstruction. Cancers can also develop in the saliva glands. These usually present as a mass in the cheek or upper neck. They can also begin as a mass in minor salivary glands located in the mouth, throat and nose. There are no blood tests to diagnose head and neck cancers. Diagnosis is made by examination and biopsy.

Head and Neck Cancer Treatment

These cancers can be quite dangerous, but many can be cured. In general, patients with larger cancers with lymph node involvement at the time of diagnosis, have a poorer chance for cure than those with smaller cancers and no lymph node involvement. Therefore, early detection of these cancers is important. Treatment options consist of surgery, radiation, or a combination of surgery and radiation. Chemotherapy is often used in conjunction with radiation, but not as a primary treatment by itself. As with other cancers, many head and neck cancers could be prevented by not using tobacco products and not overindulging in alcohol.

Schedule an Appointment Today

If you’re concerned about symptoms you or a loved one are having, please contact us today to schedule an appointment.