Early detection and prevention of head and neck cancer possible - Make Sense Campaign
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Dr.Vishesh Gumdal

Head and neck cancers are some of the most common cancers in developing countries like India. It includes cancer of mouth, throat, sinuses, salivary glands, nose or middle ear. They account for one-fourth of male cancers and one-tenth of female cancers in India. Some of the major causes of head and neck cancer include consumption of alcohol, tobacco and areca nut, HPV infections or poor oral hygiene.

Mouth cancer includes cancer of the lip, tongue or any other part of the mouth. Common symptoms for oral cancer are pain or discomfort in mouth or a lump in the mouth that does not go away. Throat cancer develops at the pharynx and larynx. Early symptoms of throat cancer include a lump in the upper neck or a painless swelling. Signs of cancer of the sinuses include pain behind the nose, swelling around the eyes and headaches. Difficulty in swallowing and facial palsy are symptoms of salivary gland cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma, which starts in the cells lining mouth, nose and throat, is the most common type of head and neck cancer (found in 90 percent cases).

One must visit a general physician or a dentist in case of worrying symptoms. After examination, he/she might refer the patient to an ENT specialist. X-ray, biopsy, endoscopy are few of the common tests recommended for further diagnosis. To check if the cancer has spread, CT scan, PET scan or MRI is carried out by the specialists.

Chemotherapy has been used for decades as the main treatment for cancer. However, it might lead to toxic side-effects. It is used along with radiation therapy. Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to control or cure cancer. It is often prescribed to destroy the tumor or to relieve pain symptoms. Targeted therapies also work by interfering with the way cancer cells grow. This is referred to as precision medicine.

Rehabilitation after head and neck cancer treatment is important. It involves working with specialists like dentists, speech therapists, nutritionists, physiotherapists etc. Tobacco de-addiction measures should also be initiated as prevention measure.
It is possible to prevent and carry out early detection of head and neck cancer.

This article has been written by Dr. Vishesh Gumdal of Global Hospital, Lakdikapool, Hyderabad.