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
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.
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