Each year, more than 60,000 North Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer, a disease that can affect the appearance of the face and neck, speech, sight, smell, chewing, swallowing and taste.
Head and neck cancer is strongly associated with certain environmental and lifestyle risk factors, including tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption, UV light and occupational exposures. It can also be caused by certain strains of viruses, such as the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. These cancers are frequently aggressive in their biologic behavior; patients with these types of cancer often develop a second primary tumor.
Treatment for most head and neck cancers usually consist of surgical resection and radiation therapy. For small primary cancers without regional metastases (stage I or II), either wide surgical excision or curative radiation therapy are used. More extensive primary tumors, or those with regional metastases (stage III or IV), planned combinations of pre- or postoperative radiation and complete surgical excision are generally used.
The symptoms of cancer of the larynx depend mainly on the size and location of the tumor. Most cancers of the larynx begin on the vocal cords. These tumors are seldom painful, but they almost always cause hoarseness or other changes in the voice. Tumors in the area above the vocal cords may cause a lump on the neck, a sore throat or an earache. Tumors that begin in the area below the vocal cords are rare and can make it hard to breathe. Your breathing may become noisy. A cough that doesn't go away or the feeling of a lump in the throat may also be warning signs of cancer of the larynx. As the tumor grows, it may cause pain, weight loss, bad breath, and choking on food. In some cases, a tumor in the larynx can make it hard to swallow.
Oral Cancer includes cancer of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of mouth, hard palate, gums and minor salivary glands.
Oral cancer usually occurs in people over the age of 45 but can develop at any age. The following are the most common symptoms of oral cancer:
Salivary gland cancer may involve two primary glands:
Most cancers of these glands occur as painless lumps, either in front of the ear or under the jaw. Parotid cancers are more common than submandibular cancers. Some lumps can enlarge rapidly or be painful. Other symptoms may include facial weakness, fixation of the lump, sensory loss, ulceration, difficulty opening the jaw and tongue numbness or weakness.
Cancers that involve the throat, base of the tongue, tonsil, pharynx, or tube that extends from the nasal passages to the mouth to the esophagus and sinus are called oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers.
Symptoms of throat cancer may include:
Risk factors for developing throat cancer may include: