Symptoms of head and neck cancer may begin with the appearance of progressive swelling that is usually painless. If symptoms are noticed early and seen by the doctor, it can be easier for the doctor to confirm the diagnosis. Therefore, it is of great importance to consult a doctor immediately when the symptoms of head and neck cancer are noticed.
This type of cancer has the potential to be cured if diagnosed early. Head and neck cancers constitute 9% of all cancers and 4% of cancer deaths. Cancer types frequently seen in the thyroid, larynx, tongue, and lip regions are indicated as one of the most important health problems in the world with more than 50,000 new cases every year.
What are The Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer?
In head and neck cancer, symptoms can vary depending on the person’s living conditions, habits and inherited genetic mutations. Smoking can lead to increased symptoms for head and neck cancer, as well as other cancer types.
Cancers in the head and neck region can generally be recognized at an early stage due to the symptoms. Early diagnosis is more likely if you notice early symptoms and inform your doctor right away. It is important to remember that complete and adequate treatment is only possible with early diagnosis. Therefore, it is crucial to know and recognize the symptoms for head and neck cancer.
Symptoms of head and neck tumors vary depending on their origin. They usually include:
- Swelling in the head and neck
- Non-healing wounds on the lips, tongue, and inner mouth area
- Difficulty swallowing
- Nasal congestion
- Hearing loss
- Facial paralysis
Hoarseness and changes in the voice can also occur after the flu. For people in the risk group of smoking and alcohol use, their vocal cords should be evaluated endoscopically if they have long-lasting vocal or speech complaints.
Risk Factors of Head and Neck Cancer
Alcohol and tobacco use are the most important causes of head and neck cancers. Especially, in the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx. Another significant factor in the development of head and neck cancers is HPV (Human Papilloma Virus), which is sexually transmitted and causes oropharynx cancer. Some of the other reasons are poor oral hygiene, radiation exposure and EBV (Epstein-Barr Virus) infections.
Treatment of head and neck cancers requires a multidisciplinary approach. Patients diagnosed with cancer are evaluated by the tumor council, which can include a head and neck surgeon, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, radiologist, and nuclear medicine specialist. Surgery is the first option, but radiotherapy can also be an effective option. The type and planning of the treatment should be made depending on the location of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, the age and socioeconomic status of the patient. For early-stage patients, a single treatment option may be sufficient, while some patients may require compound therapies.