Head and neck cancers encompass several different diseases that can affect the mouth, nose, throat and other surrounding areas. Over 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year, as these diseases account for 3 to 5 percent of all cancers. Many cases of head and neck cancer can be prevented through life changes.
Several different types of cancer can affect the areas of the head and neck. Most begin in the lining of moist, mucosal surfaces such as the mouth, nose and throat. The cells in the lining are known as squamous cells, and may therefore be affected by squamous cell carcinomas. The different types of cancer associated with the head and neck include:
Like other types of cancer, these diseases can spread to other areas of the body and lead to serious complications. Prompt, thorough treatment is essential in restoring the health and overall well-being of patients with head and neck cancer.
Head and neck cancers are most often caused by tobacco and alcohol use, especially cancer of the oral cavity and larynx. Other factors that may lead to cancer include sun exposure, HPV, and radiation exposure. Tobacco use is linked to 85 percent of head and neck cancers.
Many of these factors can be reduced or eliminated through simple life changes. Quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol can reduce your risk of developing head and neck cancer or slow the disease from progressing further. Patients who are at an increased risk for developing head and neck cancer should be screened regularly to detect any problems as quickly as possible. Early detection can significantly improve the effectiveness of treatment.
Fortunately, many people with head and neck cancers experience symptoms right away that lead to an early diagnosis of the condition. Symptoms of head and neck cancers vary depending on the type of cancer, but may include:
While these symptoms may be caused by a wide range of conditions, it is important for patients to seek prompt medical attention at the first sign of symptoms.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your doctor may perform an endoscopy, blood and urine test, imaging test and biopsy, along with a complete physical examination. In order to confirm a diagnosis of cancer, a tissue sample (biopsy) needs to be examined under a microscope.
Once cancer has been diagnosed, it is important to determine the stage of the disease and whether or not it has spread to other areas of the body. Staging usually involves imaging procedures and can help determine the best treatment approach for each individual patient.
Treatment for these cancers depends on the type and location of the tumor, as well as the patient's age and overall health. Treatment often includes surgery to remove the cancer, as well as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Surgery involves the removal of the cancerous tissue and some surrounding healthy tissue to ensure thorough eradication of the disease. Surgery may cause swelling and bruising, and may affect the patient’s ability to chew, swallow or talk. Chemotherapy is often administered after surgery and uses medication to kill cancer cells over repeated treatment sessions. Similarly, radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. Your doctor will develop a customized treatment plan for you.
It is important to discuss treatment options with your doctors, as certain methods may have long-term effects on the way you look, talk, eat or breathe. Making healthy life changes, including avoiding smoking and alcohol use, will help prevent the disease from recurring, as well as reduce the risk for other diseases.
Dr. Andy Chung is the first surgeon in Dallas to be trained on the da Vinci robotic thyroidectomy. da Vinci Thyroidectomy first and foremost provides surgeons with a superior tool and technique for thyroid surgery. It also gives patients a surgical option that eliminates all visible scars. With open techniques, surgeons strive to make the incision as small as possible, which may compromise their exposure and ultimately visualization of the operative field. With da Vinci, not only are the cosmetic results excellent, the surgical platform enables potentially better results than are possible even with open surgery.
For more information about this procedure or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Andy Chung or another of Dallas ENT Group’s fine surgeons, please call 972-566-8300.
Dallas ENT Group offers a sophisticated and minimally-invasive procedure called Transoral Laser Microsurgery to remove tumors from the throat and neck. A diagnosis of cancer of the mouth or throat can be especially devastating. Chemotherapy, radiotherapy and other surgery options to treat the condition can dramatically alter facial appearance and threaten the ability to swallow, talk, eat, smell, taste, hear and even to breathe normally.
This sophisticated procedure does not require cutting through the skin and neck muscles; the procedure is completed through the mouth and allows patients to be discharged from the hospital faster, the cancer is controlled more effectively, and the throat and mouth functions are preserved more effectively.
Dr. Andy Chung’s expertise has been acknowledged through his numerous invitations to be a guest lecturer in a course that teaches Transoral Laser Microsurgery to students at Washington University.