Head and Neck Cancers
Head and neck cancer refers to cancerous growths that start in a part of the head and neck and include the throat, larynx (voice box), nose, sinuses, and mouth. A point of possible confusion concerns brain cancer which, even though the brain is located in the head, is categorized separately and not included in this subtype.
Tumors in this subtype usually begin in the moist interior lining of the mouth, nose or throat with the risk of developing this cancer greater for those who smoke or chew tobacco and drink alcohol. Head and neck cancer accounts for up to five percent of all cancers in the United States with a greater proportion of men versus women developing this disease.
There is an increased chance that people who were previously treated for head and neck cancer can develop a new cancer, usually in the head and neck, esophagus, or lungs. The chances of this vary but people who smoke and drink alcohol are at greater risk and it also depends on the original cancer’s diagnosis.
Listing all the head/neck cancer subtypes would be extensive; here are some of the diseases that are more frequently diagnosed:
- Hypopharyngeal Cancer – cancer in the tissues of the hypopharynx (the bottom part of the throat)
- Laryngeal Cancer – cancer in the tissues of the larynx
- Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer – malignancy of the lips and mouth (include the gums, cheeks, floor and roof of the mouth)
- Nasopharyngeal Cancer – very rare and starts in upper part of throat behind the nose
- Oropharyngeal Cancer – very rare cancerous growths in the base of the tongue, tonsils and soft palate
- Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer – cancer of the nasal sinus and passage
- Salivary Gland Cancer – very rare cancerous growth of the salivary glands (produce saliva) in the mouth cavity
Depending on the cancer’s location, treatment can affect a person’s ability to talk, swallow, and hear. The Cancer Center’s multi-disciplinary approach is prepared to overcome challenges like this by partnering with the patient and helping with all areas of cancer care. Physicians and staff team with the patient for the most advanced treatment with the least amount of impact on the body. We encourage patients to participate in their own medical care helping them to make informed decisions.
Our physicians are dedicated to their work in life-saving tumor treatments and through their research, have access to the most advanced therapies for patients. We partner with renowned specialists in diagnosing and staging cancers, from the more common to the extremely rare.
Practicing good health habits, such as periodic check-ups, is helpful to finding malignant tumors at an early stage and treating the disease when it’s less advanced. In circumstances of persistent and recurring symptoms a doctor should be consulted. A physical check-up and review of family medical history are the first steps towards diagnosis. Depending upon the physical and imaging test’s outcome, a biopsy would be the next step.
Location of a tumor affects the types of symptoms that are experienced and can include the following:
- Oral cavity – swollen jaw; bleeding or pain in the mouth; white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or mouth lining
- Nasal cavity and sinuses – recurring headaches; swollen eyes or eye pain; blocked sinuses or sinus infection unresponsive to treatment; nosebleeds; pain in upper teeth
- Salivary glands – swollen jaw or chin; face muscles numb; persistent pain in face, chin, or neck.
- Oropharynx and hypopharynx – Ear pain.
- Nasopharynx – Trouble breathing or speaking, frequent headaches, pain or ringing in the ears, or trouble hearing.
- Larynx – Pain when swallowing, or ear pain.
Some general symptoms can include:
- a lump or swelling in the neck
- persistent sore throat
- persistent hoarseness or a change in the voice
- persistent pain in the neck, throat, or ears
- numbness in the tongue or other areas
Depending on the stage of the disease and other factors, treatment options for head and neck cancer can include one and possibly a combination of:
- Radiation therapy
It is critical for a patient to discuss all treatment options as well as possible side effects with the medical team before any decisions are made.
Our expert oncology team considers all components of a patient’s cancer before developing a treatment plan. We evaluate the tumor’s grade and stage, prior treatments (if any), progress of the cancer, biopsy results and other individualized factors. We collaborate with prominent surgeons, pathologists and radiation oncologists from prestigious institutions such as M.D. Anderson, St. John’s, Cedars Sinai, Stanford, UCLA, and USC. Together we create personalized multi-modal treatment plans with the capacity to go beyond standard cancer care if needed.
Our Los Angeles physicians are actively participating in clinical trials working with the newest drugs, and through this involvement, can offer the most advanced treatment plan for each individual.
Contact our oncology experts for more information
Learn more about head and neck cancers from WebMD.com.
Contact Your Cancer Specialists
Each patient receives the careful attention of an expert team of medical specialists through our multi-modal treatment approach. We are deeply committed to the emotional and physical well-being of our patients. Please contact our center at 310-552-9999 to schedule a consultation with one of our Los Angeles physicians.
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