Cancer in the head and neck usually begins in Squamous cells. Various head and neck cancer treatments are available that target the affected area. The tumor targets the different parts of the neck or head. According to the study, 4% of people in the United States have these cancers. Also, around 15,000 people lose their lives due to neck or head cancer every year. The reason is not getting the treatment at the time.
Such types of cancers are easily prevented when detected in their early stages. Cancer specialists use different treatments to control cancer in the head and neck. This post will show you the different treatments, risk factors, and survival rates for neck and head tumors.
Head And Neck Cancer: An Overview
Head and neck cancer involves the different types of cancers that begin in the neck or head. People who are over 50 in age have the highest probability of getting this type of cancer. A total of 5% of people in the U.S. suffer from head or neck tumors every year. According to a recent study, people who smoke, eat tobacco, and consume alcohol have a higher chance of suffering from these tumors.
The origin of the tumor is the cells inside the mucus membranes. These cells are found inside the nose, mouth, and throat. Another factor that causes such cancers is Human Papillomavirus(HPV). When cancer grows in size, it also affects the other types of cells.
Types Of Head And Neck Cancer
Apart from Squamous cells, tumors in the head and neck can also begin in other cells. Cancer, which begins in the Sinuses and Salivary glands, is less common among cancer patients. There are different types of head and neck cancer:
Cancers In Salivary Glands
These types of cancers begin in the Salivary glands. These glands are located near the jawbone and bottom of the mouth. When the tumor grows in size, it affects the human ability to produce saliva. The signs of getting cancer in the Salivary glands are as follows:
- Numbness on face
- Pain in the Salivary glands
- Face paralysis
- Weakness in face muscles
- Problem in swallowing
- Facial pain
- Problems in opening the mouth
Some of these signs are absent in the early stages of cancer. However, sometimes these symptoms are an indication of other problems. It’s important to undergo the diagnosis process to confirm cancer.
Cancer Of Laryngeal
Laryngeal cancer targets the part of the mouth which helps in speaking. In this type of cancer, the voice box affects the most. However, the vocal cords, like the glottis, subglottis, and hypopharynx, are highly affected as well. The indication of getting laryngeal cancers are as follows:
- Change of voice
- Continuous cough
- Difficulty in breathing
- Pain in the ear
- Sudden weight loss
- Problem in swallowing
- Hoarseness in voice
These types of cancers are found in different parts of the mouth. They target the lips, inner cheeks, gums, upper part of the mouth as well as tongue in the early stages. When the tumor grows in size, it starts affecting the other parts as well. The signs of getting oral cancers are as follows:
- Soreness in lips
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Lump inside the mouth
- Numbness in the neck, lips, and face
- Stiffness in jawline
- Red patches in the whole mouth
Nasal Cavity Cancers
These types of cancer start in the nasal passages or cells surrounding the sinuses. Nasal cancer shows the abnormal growth of lumps in the passages. The early signs of getting cancer of the nasal cavity are as follows:
- Difficulty in vision
- Persistent headache
- Lump on neck or face
- Numbness in mouth
- Loss of hearing
- Soreness in throat
- Bleeding from nose
- Nasal congestion
- Pain in ear
Cancers Of Pharyngeal
The tube which connects the windpipe with a nose is called Pharynx. When the tumor begins, it causes difficulty in breathing. Problems occur in the different parts of the nose and the middle and lower parts of the mouth. The early symptoms of getting Pharyngeal cancers are as follows:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Lump in the throat
- Difficulty in swallowing
- The problem with hearing clearly
- Lump in the neck
- Sore throat
- Ringing in the ear
- Bleeding from nose
Diagnosis Process Of Cancer In Head And Neck
Early diagnosis of cancer in the head and neck is necessary to get the right treatment on time. Around 75% of head or neck tumors are easily diagnosed during the tests. A cancer specialist performs the following test to detect the type and stage of cancer:
Endoscopy is the process that allows doctors to examine the body with a thin tube called an endoscope. A flexible tube is inserted gently through the nose to examine the head and neck. During the process, a person is given medicine to become sleepy or relaxed. After proper analysis, doctors determine the cancer stage in the head or neck.
In this examination, a cancer specialist does a physical test to feel the lump on the neck, cheeks, throat, and gums. A proper inspection has been done using the light and mirror to get a clear view of the inner head and neck. Moreover, doctors also conduct blood and urine tests to diagnose the tumor.
When a doctor removes a small tissue for examination, this process is called a biopsy.
During this, a small needle is inserted to collect affected tissue. After that, tissue or cells are examined under the microscope. A person specializing in examining the cells and tissues is called a Pathologist. It is one of the effective ways to diagnose cancer.
In the X-ray diagnosis process, a picture is created of the inside structure of the neck and head. A small number of X-rays are used to identify the abnormalities in the swallowing passage. During this, a person swallows a liquid that contains barium. After that, a series of X-rays focuses on the neck and head. If doctors notice the signs of cancer, they suggest a CT scan after it.
Computed Tomography(CT) Scan
In the CT scan, X-rays are focused from different angles to take an image of the inside of the body. After that, the computer combined the results using the 3D image. CT scan measures the size of the tumor in the neck or head. Before performing this process, a CT scan specialist injects a dye into a patient’s vein. The reason behind it is to get better detail on the scanned image.
Various Head And Neck Cancer Treatments
After proper examination of results coming from the diagnosis process, doctors determine the suitable treatment. There are different types of head and neck cancer treatment given to patients. A cancer specialist determines the suitable treatment based on the type and stage of cancer.
Therapy involves treating the cancers in the neck and head and involves a team of doctors. Each head and neck specialist plays an important role in creating and executing the treatment plan. Here are the different types of doctors involved in giving cancer treatment:
- Radiation oncologist: treats cancer using radiation therapy
- Surgical oncologist: treats cancer by performing surgery
- Plastic surgeon: restore the damaged tissue
- Medical surgeon: treats cancer using chemotherapy
- Otolaryngologist: treats injuries to the nose, ear, and throat
- Dental oncologist: treats cancer in the mouth and surrounding area
After the diagnosis, a cancer specialist forms a team to treat the head and neck tumor. Here are the different types of treatments given to prevent cancer of the neck and head:
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The goal of immunotherapy is to boost immunity to fight against cancer. Various drugs and inhibitors kill cancer-producing cells in the head and neck. However, this therapy usage is limited, and it is only used to treat higher stages of tumors. But in some cases, immunotherapy is given in combination with other cancer treatments.
In this therapy, a drug disrupts the signals that allow cancer cells to grow. Limited doses of drugs have been used to examine the progress. Immunotherapy is a great option for treating oropharyngeal cancer patients.
It is the widely used cancer treatment for different types and stages of cancer. Most cancer specialists prefer radiation therapy(RT) to shrink the tumor size. Furthermore, this therapy delivers a high radiation beam on the head and neck tumor cells. During the therapy, a precaution is taken to protect the healthy cells or tissues.
As the rays focus on the affected area of the neck or head, there are fewer chances of getting side effects. Radiation therapy can be given externally or internally. The preferred way to deliver radiation is external. However, internal RV is suitable for treating oral cancers. It is also an effective treatment for different stages of lip and salivary gland cancers.
This treatment is best for patients whose cancer spreads to the bones or other body parts. The higher stages of neck and head cancers are treated well with chemotherapy. Sometimes, doctors combine this with radiation therapy. As a result, the tumor shrinks faster than in RV alone. The process of chemotherapy kills cancer-growing cells with the use of drugs.
One of the common drugs used in chemotherapy for head and neck tumors is Cisplatin. It is an effective treatment for different nasal cavity, lip, and Laryngeal cancer stages. Chemotherapy can cause infections by reducing the level of blood cells. In such a case, it is recommended to talk to your therapist.
In the targeted therapies, specific drugs are used to target cancer growth. This treatment aims to destroy cancer cells. The head and neck is the potential target which is the growth receptor. Doctors often use targeted drugs along with a combination of other therapies. EGFR drugs are used in controlled doses to treat head or neck cancer.
Other targeted therapies widely used are tumor-agnostic and monoclonal therapy. To identify the different factors in the tumor, doctors conduct tests. It helps doctors to give the best possible therapy.
Surgery is a first-line treatment option when cancer spreads in the head and neck. Some patients are treated with the surgery alone, while other patients are given radiation therapy with surgery. Different types of surgery are used to treat neck and head cancer stages.
Some popular surgeries are wide local excision, transoral robotic, plastic, and neck lymph dissection. There is also a potential risk associated with surgical treatment. Thus, it is advised to consult a cancer specialist about the side effects and risks associated with a particular surgery.
Side Effects Of Head And Neck Cancer Therapies
Every cancer treatment can cause side effects on the overall health. That’s why it is essential to discuss the side effects of any therapy in advance. Every treatment we discussed above brings side effects. After a few weeks of therapy, patients start facing several problems. Here are the side effects of each treatment for neck and head cancer:
After undergoing the immunotherapy, patients face various side effects:
- Skin rashes
- Pain in joints
- Problem in appetite
- Feeling of tired
- Difficulty in breathing
- Frequent fever
- Feeling of dizziness
- Facial flushing
- Damage to lungs, kidneys, and liver
In this therapy, there are huge chances of healthy cell damage. Patients usually face the following side effects:
- Hair loss
- Unintended weight loss
- Poor digestive system
- Soreness in mouth
A high radiation beam projects on the affected area during radiation therapy. There are huge chances of damage to healthy tissues or cells, which results in the form of side effects:
- Dryness in mouth
- Change in voice
- Trouble in swallowing
- Soreness in mouth
- Feeling of Nausea
- Swelling in neck and head
- Pain in the ear, mouth, and neck
- Stiffness in jaw
- Thickened in saliva
- Poor sensation in taste
When the drugs have targeted the area of the neck or head, it causes negative effects on healthy organs as well. When it reacts with genes, people face various side effects:
- Upset stomach
- High fever
- Rashes on the skin and chest
- Allergic reaction
- Difficulty in speaking
Surgery for head and neck cancer deals with cutting the affected tissue. Surgeons took out the tumor from the head or neck by using various techniques. Patients start to see the side effects after months of having cancer surgery. Here are the following side effects of head and neck surgery:
- Difficulty in chewing food
- Change in hearing
- Loss of hearing( In some cases)
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Problem in breathing
- Swelling around surgical part
- Changes in speech
Some patients don’t have any side effects after cancer treatment. But the majority of patients complain about side effects. In such a condition, reach out to the cancer specialist as soon as possible.
Follow-Up Treatment For Side Effects
Patients need to go with follow-up treatments. Almost every cancer specialist fixes an appointment after a few weeks of head and neck cancer treatment. During the follow-up treatment, the doctor monitors the conditions of cancer patients. Here are the reasons to undergo examination after cancer therapies:
- To detect the possible effects of therapies.
- The treatment of the various side effects occurs after surgery.
- Detection and treatment of tissue damage caused by radiation.
- To check the unrelated head and neck cancer may arise in the future.
- Analyze the progress of treatment.
When To Take A Head And Neck Follow-Up Treatment?
There are fewer chances of getting cancer after successful treatment. The risk of recurrent head or neck tumors is only 2-3%. According to the experts, patients should undergo follow-up treatment during the following period:
- Every 1-3 months in the first year of treatment.
- Every 2-6 months in the second year.
- After that, every 4-8 months in the third year.
- Then, the patient can go with follow-up treatment annually.
During the follow-up treatments, doctors perform CT scans and MRIs to check the condition of the neck and head. Moreover, thyroid functions also check annually to detect any signs of tumor.
Risk Factors Associated With Head Or Neck Cancer
More than 75% of cancer in the head and neck occurs due to human papillomavirus(HPV) infection. When people sexually engage with each other, HPV transmits. This infection doesn’t show or rarely shows any symptoms. All men and women with HPV infection can develop cancer in the neck and head. The people who are more prone to this tumor are as follows:
- Who consume alcohol and tobacco.
- Male who are older than 40 years
- People who chew betel quid
- Having Epstein-Barr virus
- Have exposure to wood dust
The risk factors associated with head or neck tumors increase with time. People who smoke continuously are more prone to getting cancer.
What Are Recurrent Head And Neck Cancer?
Recurrent head and neck tumor is the one that comes back after treatment ends. The origin or place of recurrence of cancer is the same or different. At this time, doctors recommend different types of treatments based on the type and origin of the tumor. Doctors perform another round of diagnostic processes to determine the tumor’s exact location.
- Recurrent cancer is treated like metastatic cancer. The treatment option includes radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drugs.
- When cancer reappears in hypopharyngeal, the same therapies prove beneficial. The difference is that doctors change the doses and intensity of rays in this treatment.
Ways To Protect Yourself From Head And Neck Tumor
Getting diagnosed with head and neck cancer is common nowadays. With the advancement in medical science, it’s easy to prevent this cancer. During the early stages, doctors prescribe the therapy which works well. Here are the ways to prevent yourself from getting cancer of the neck and head:
The main cause of getting cancer in the head and neck is the habit of eating tobacco. Most people consume tobacco in the form of cigarettes, pipes, chewing material, and cigars. Daily consumption of these affects the mouth cells and causes tumors. The only way to reduce neck cancer risk is to quit all forms of tobacco. It is never easy to break the habit, but various chewing medicines can help.
Cut Down Alcohol Intake
Alcohol consumption affects the overall immunity system. It directly targets the liver of the body. The easy way to protect yourself from neck and head cancer is to avoid taking alcohol. Most doctors offer a treatment to limit the consumption of alcohol. You should discuss this with your doctors before starting any treatment.
Get HPV Vaccine
People infected with Human Papillomavirus have higher chances of being affected with head or neck tumors. In most cases, when the virus spreads, it causes oropharyngeal cancer. Taking an HPV vaccine can reduce the risk of getting cancer. Talking with a medical specialist about your present condition is important. The vaccine is most effective when taken at a young age. According to the study, the right age to get the HPV vaccine is 26 years.
What Is The Survival Rate Of Head And Neck Cancer?
The survival rate among men and women keeps changing with treatment. There is an exact survival rate associated with any therapy. Every cancer comes with a different percentage of survival which changes with time. The head and cancer survival rates are highest in a subtype of salivary gland cancer.
1-Year Survival Rate
The survival rate in the first year of head and neck treatment is as follows:
- Men: 60.4%
- Women: 60.7%
- Adults: 60.5%
5-Year Survival Rate
The survival rate in the 5-year of head and neck tumor treatment is as follows:
- Men: 27.2%
- Women: 30.2%
- Adults: 27.8
10-Year Survival Rate
The survival rate in the 10-year of head and neck cancer therapies is as follows:
- Men: 17.9%
- Women: 23.3%
- Adults: 21.6%
Every treatment comes with a different survival rate. The number mentioned above is based on research. Factors like the patient’s health, type, and cancer stage also play an important role in determining the survival rate.
Cancer of the head and neck begins in the mucus membranes. Doctors use different head and neck cancer treatments to prevent tumors from growing.
When the cancer cells start growing, it affects the other parts of the body like the mouth, nose, voice box, etc. As a result, people suffer from unusual facial, head, and neck changes. Various popular treatments like Immunotherapy, Radiation therapy, and surgeries are used to prevent the tumor. It is advised to quit smoking and alcohol and get the HPV vaccine after consulting with a doctor.
University Cancer Centers provide different types of treatment to prevent head and neck cancer. Our certified team of specialists has expertise in treating different stages of tumors. We use an advanced diagnosis process to know the exact position of affected cells. After that, we identify the right treatment with less risk. Our proven therapies work well in cancer of the breast, brain, lung, prostate glands, and many more. To know more about possible cancer treatments, call us at (713)-474-1414.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Possible Treatments For Cancer In The Head And Neck?
Doctors suggest treatment for head and neck tumors based on stage and type of cancer. Here are the possible treatment for neck and head cancer:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapies
How Long Can I Live With Cancer Of The Head Or Neck?
The survival time for the different subtypes for one year is between 1-5 years. The total years anyone can survive on the stage and type of cancer.
What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Cancer Treatment?
People after undergoing cancer treatment can have the following side effects:
- Feeling of tiredness
- Problem in speaking
- Upset stomach