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Learn more about Head & Neck Cancer and other symptoms,
and how it can be treated here at NC TAN Surgery.

What is Head & Neck Cancer?

Upper aerodigestive tract of the human body

Head and neck cancers are found in the upper aerodigestive tract (UADT) of the human body. The upper aerodigestive tract transmits air (aero) and food (digestive) to our lungs and stomach respectively. Any abnormality found at the UADT can greatly affect critical bodily functions such as breathing, eating, swallowing, and talking.

The UADT can be subdivided into:

  • Nasal Cavity

  • Nasopharynx

  • Paranasal Sinuses

  • Oral Cavity

  • Oropharynx

  • Hypopharynx and Oesophagus

  • Larynx

Signs & symptoms 

Common symptoms that can arise due to head and neck cancers:

  • Blocked nose, reduced smell, nasal discharge, visual disturbances​

  • ​​Reduced jaw opening, hot potato voice, impaired tongue mobility

  • Tongue ulcers

  • ​​Neck lump, ear block, nose block

  • ​​Difficulty swallowing, pain on swallowing, chronic cough

  • ​​Hoarseness, choking/aspiration, difficulty breathing, and globus sensation

  • ​Scalp lumps and ulcers

  • Ulcers and pigmented lumps on the skin of the face or neck.


Risks Factors:

  • Smoking

  • Heavy alcohol consumption

  • Chewing tobacco or betel nuts

  • Human papilloma virus infection


Workup and diagnosis of Head & Neck Cancers:

This includes a thorough head and neck clinical examination, which includes an examination of the oral cavity, the neck and a nasendoscopy.

After the clinical examination, a biopsy will be taken for any suspicious growth. Fine-needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) is also performed if there are swellings found in the neck.

A computed tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging (CT or MRI) will be done to evaluate the extent of the disease as well.



Treatment of Head & Neck Cancers:

The treatment of head & neck cancers usually involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Thus, a multidisciplinary approach is crucial to the management of patients with head and neck cancers. The prognosis depends largely on the location and stage of cancer. Early cancers (Stage I & II) can have a cure rate of up to 90%.

Head and Neck Cancers and Tumours
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