What you should know about Head and Neck Cancer - Make Sense Campaign
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Dr. Bharat Patodiya

Head & Neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide and it is most common in central Asia. Cancers that are known collectively as head & neck cancer usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat). 

Smoking, use of alcohol, chewing tobacco and pipe smoking are the main causes of head & neck cancer. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection is also a risk factor for oral cancer.

Persistent mouth ulcers, hoarse voice, nasal symptoms, dysphagia, lump in the throat are the major symptoms of head & neck cancer. The disease is identified and diagnosed by clinical examination, CT scan, MRI and the biopsy.

After the diagnosis and staging of the disease, it can be treated through Surgery, Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy.

The early stage of the disease is mainly treated by surgery alone. In certain clinical situations, radiotherapy is clearly the first line treatment of choice. Bulky tumours are generally best treated by a combination of surgery and radiotherapy.

More than 60% of the head & neck cancer patients have advanced loco regional disease at the time of presentation (most of the patients present themselves in Stage III/IV). The use of radiotherapy with concurrent chemotherapy has been demonstrated to yield more positive results over just use of radiotherapy alone.

Chemotherapy is used for treatment but for platinum unsuitable patients, targeted therapies are the preferred choice. Recently targeted therapies and immune-oncology drugs have shown promising results for head & neck cancer.

The article is written by Dr. Bharat Patodiya, Consultant Medical Oncologist, American Oncology Institute, Hyderabad