Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer symptoms may include a lump in the neck or a sore in the mouth or the throat that does not heal and may be painful, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice. These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious conditions.
What causes head and neck cancer?
Alcohol and tobacco use (including secondhand smoke and smokeless tobacco, sometimes called “chewing tobacco” or chewing betel nut or “snuff”) are the two most important risk factors for head and neck cancers, especially cancers of the oral cavity, hypopharynx, and voice box. People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk of developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone. Most head and neck squamous cell carcinomas of the mouth and voice box are caused by tobacco and alcohol use.
Symptoms of head and neck cancer – the “aha” moment
Many people get head and neck cancer symptoms without the cancer being in the region or growing there. Don’t delay treatment.
The “aha” moment occurs when someone is rushed to the hospital with a neck tumor. They think they have a simple neck or jaw overgrowth but it turns out it is a more severe case.
Diagnosing a head and neck cancer can be especially tricky. First, a doctor will need to rule out any other common causes of this symptom. For example, a lump on the upper lip that hurts or a sore throat that does not go away usually does not turn out to be a cancer. The doctor may also check the patient’s throat for any problems such as vocal cord nodules, polyps, or chronic inflammation.
Other tests are used to make a diagnosis.
Types of Head and Neck Cancer
You have at least two kinds of head and neck cancer to watch out for: squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of head and neck cancer. It’s usually treated with radiation, which can be combined with chemotherapy. It can also be treated by removing the tumor and the precancerous cells, but this can be painful and risky, so it’s best to have the tumor and precancerous cells removed surgically and take oral medication for up to five years after the operation.
Adenocarcinoma is uncommon, but when it does appear, it usually appears in the throat or lining of the mouth. It’s more likely to develop in people who smoke, are overweight or have a close family member who had a lung cancer.
How to recognise head and neck cancer
· If you’ve ever had an injury to the neck or have noticed a lump, numbness, or pain in the neck or jaw, call your doctor right away.
· If you notice a sudden change in your breathing habits, such as breathing through your mouth, coughing without breathing, hoarseness in the voice, or sore throat that does not go away for more than two weeks, then call your doctor.
· If you notice a lump or sore in your mouth or throat that does not go away or is painful, then call your doctor.
Preventing cancer from developing in the neck and upper back
Although cancer does not usually develop in areas that are always covered or protected, these types of cancer are often found in these areas because they are areas often covered by hair or because they lie close to the head. However, head and neck cancers also frequently occur in the upper chest, lower abdomen, or pelvis.
Many people with head and neck cancer have not received a diagnosis. They may be diagnosed after a lump is found or they begin to notice other symptoms.
Treatments are available for head and neck cancer. The most common treatments for head and neck cancer are surgery to remove the tumor, radiation therapy, chemotherapy.
While it is important for individuals to understand the risks and symptoms of head and neck cancer, it is also important for them to realize that the survival rate for head and neck cancer is exceptionally high and far better than many other cancers. In addition to knowing these statistics, individuals should also make sure they have all of the proper screenings and screenings for other conditions that can raise a cancer risk.
Take charge of your health. If you would like a more in-depth look at the research behind head and neck cancer, including how it is diagnosed and why, then visit our Head and Neck Cancer Research page.
The bottom line is that being aware of these facts is important for individuals to understand as they make decisions that could potentially save their life.
Always remember Early Detection Saves Lives