Head Neck Oncology Treatment
The branch of medicine that deals with the cancer of the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat and lymph nodes in the neck is known as head and neck oncology. Most of the cancer begins in the moist tissue that lines the mouth, nose and throat. They are further categorized by the area of the head or neck in which they begin such as oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, salivary glands, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity.
There are different causes for the cancers of head and neck. Some of them are given below –
1. Alcohol and tobacco in any form are the most important causes of head and neck cancer. More than 70 percent of the cancers of head and neck are caused due to alcohol and tobacco.
2. Consumption of certain types of salted and preserved food can cause nasopharyngeal cancer.
3. Cancer of oral cavity can be caused due to poor oral hygiene and missing of teeth.
4. Occupational exposure to wood dust, asbestos, synthetic fibers, nickel dust etc can lead to cancer of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity.
5. Cancer of salivary gland is due to radiation given to the head and neck.
Identification of the symptoms is necessary to get the ideal treatments. Some of the symptoms are given below –
1. Oral cavity – White or red patch on the gums. Swelling of jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly
2. Pharynx – Trouble in breathing or speaking, pain while speaking or swallowing food, frequent headaches etc.
3. Larynx – Ear pain or pain while swallowing.
4. Paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity – Bleeding through the nose, pain in upper teeth and problem with dentures.
5. Salivary glands – Swelling under the chin and the jawbone, numbness or paralysis of the muscle.
There are different techniques to treat cancer of head and neck –
1. Surgery – If you have localized cancer or if the cancer has not spread to any other parts, then surgery is the best suitable option. Reconstructive surgery is also provided which helps in restoring the appearance and functions such as swallowing of food and speech.
2. Radiation therapy – Cancer cells are destroyed with the help of radiotherapy in which high energy rays are used. It is the primary treatment in small throat cancers.
3. Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is mainly given in combination with surgery or radiation therapy in advanced cases. In chemotherapy, powerful drugs are given which kills the cancer cells that are left behind after surgery or radiation therapy.
Symptoms include a sore that does not heal, pain while swallowing food, chronic sinus trouble, bloody nasal discharge, hoarseness lasting more than two weeks etc.
Early diagnosis is difficult and thorough physical examination is necessary. Imagine techniques such as X-rays, MRI, Endoscopy, tomograms etc. are also used.
It is a common side effect during radiotherapy. It can be improved by taking prescribed supplements and tube feeding.
Common treatments for treating head and neck cancer are radiation, surgery, chemotherapy and targeted therapy.