More men than women likely to suffer from head and neck cancer - Make Sense Campaign
Created by
« home page
Dr. PU Prakash Saxena

Head and neck cancer is one of the most common cancers in India. It collectively refers to cancers of the oral cavity, salivary glands, pharynx, larynx, nasal cavity, and paranasal sinuses.

The most important risk factor is the use of tobacco and alcohol. According to studies, nearly 85 percent of head and neck cases are linked to tobacco usage and approximately 75 percent of cases are caused by the use of both tobacco and alcohol. Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), vitamin deficiencies, exposure to dust, poor oral hygiene, and prolonged exposure to x-rays or sunlight are other risk factors.

Like most other cancers, the chances of developing head and neck cancer increase with age. It is also found that more men than women suffer from this disease.

The symptoms depend on where the cancer develops. Tumors in the larynx and pharynx manifest as a lump in the throat. Mouth cancers cause swelling in the jaw or sores in the mouth. Head and neck cancers can also lead to a change in voice, headache, sore throat, and pain in the ears.

Head and neck cancer can be diagnosed through endoscopy, biopsy, MRI, CT scan, and PET scan. The treatment is based on the site and stage of the tumour.

Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy are the most common treatment options. Radiation therapy uses high energy X-rays to destroy cancer cells. The most prevalent types of radiation therapies include Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT).

Chemotherapy prevents the ability of the cancerous cells to divide or grow. Targeted therapy helps target specific genes, proteins, or tissues, thereby preventing the spread of the cancer.

This article has been written by Dr. PU Prakash Saxena, MBBS, MD, FAGE, Professor & Head, Department of Radiotherapy & Oncology, Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore.