What is Head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancers are cancers that occur in the head and neck area of the body. Head and neck cancers are more likely to occur in men than women and are most common in people over the age of 50.

Head and neck cancers are more common in some parts of the United States than others. These cancers are more common in some states than others, and in some parts of the country, they are more common than in others.

Signs & Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of head and throat cancer may include:

  • A sore throat, hoarseness, or pain that is worse when you swallow
  • A hoarse voice or difficulty swallowing
  • A feeling of an obstruction in the throat
  • A lump in the throat
  • A pain in the throat
  • A cough that produces phlegm
  • A cough that produces blood
  • A cough that produces green or yellow mucus
  • A lump in the neck
  • A sore in the neck
  • A swollen lymph node in the neck
  • A lump in the neck or under the chin
  • An earache or ear fullness
  • A feeling of fullness in the ear
  • A feeling of a lump in the throat
  • A feeling that something is caught in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing

If you have any of these symptoms, please call your doctor. The sooner you get help, the quicker your treatment can begin.

Diagnosis

Your doctor may use a variety of tests to diagnose your condition. These tests may include:

  • A physical exam. Your doctor will examine your head, neck, and throat.
  • A biopsy. A sample of tissue is taken from your head and throat for testing.
  • A chest X-ray. An X-ray is used to examine the chest and lungs.
  • An endoscopy. An endoscope is a lighted tube that is inserted through the mouth. An endoscope can be used to view the inside of the throat and mouth.
  • Blood tests. These tests are used to detect signs of infection.
  • Surgical removal of a piece of tissue from your throat.
  • A CT scan. This test is used to take detailed pictures of your head and throat.
  • An MRI scan. This test is used to create a picture of your brain and spinal cord. It can show the location of tumors.
  • An ultrasound scan. This test uses sound waves to create pictures and check the size of the lymph nodes in your neck.
  • A PET scan. This test is used to check for cancer cells in your body.
  • A bone marrow biopsy. This test is used to check your body’s bone marrow for a cancerous tumor.
  • A laryngoscopy. This test is used to check your throat for cancerous tumors.
  • A biopsy of the lymph nodes. A sample of lymph nodes is removed. This is done with a needle and syringe. A biopsy is then taken.

How is head and throat cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose head and throat cancer based on your medical history, a physical exam, and diagnostic tests.

Your doctor may order tests for you to diagnose head and throat cancer or to help determine if treatment is working. These tests may include:

  • An endoscopy. This test uses an endoscope to examine the throat and voice box.
  • A chest X-ray. This test is usually done to look for signs of cancer in the lungs.
  • A CT scan. This test is done to check for signs of cancer in the lungs and the brain.
  • An MRI scan. This test is done to check for signs of cancer in the brain.
  • A bone marrow biopsy. This test is done to check for signs of cancer in the bone marrow.
  • A laryngoscopy. This test is done to check the throat for signs of cancer.
  • A PET scan or CT scan. These tests are used to check if cancer has spread.

How is head and mouth cancer treated?

Treatment for head and mouth cancer may include:

  • Surgery to remove all or part of the cancer.
  • Radiation therapy to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy to kill cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy to boost your immune system to fight the cancer.
  • Targeted therapy to attack the cancer cells, but not normal cells.
  • A stem cell transplant to grow new blood cells.

What are the complications of head and mouth cancer?

Head and mouth cancer can cause complications. These complications may include:

  • Bleeding, bleeding that won’t stop.
  • Pain or pressure in the head and mouth.
  • A fever.
  • Inflammation of the face (facial cellulitis).
  • Pneumonia.
  • Ear infections.
  • A sore throat.
  • Trouble swallowing (dysphagia).
  • Problems with the teeth.
  • Problems with the jaw.
  • Loss of feeling or movement in the face (phantom limb).

How can I prevent head and mouth cancer?

The best way to prevent head and teeth cancer is to not smoke.

Other things you can do to prevent head and teeth cancer are:

  • Avoiding tobacco use.
  • Limiting alcohol.
  • Regular dental visits.
  • Brushing your teeth twice a day.
  • Getting regular dental cleanings.
  • Having your teeth examined by a dentist.
  • Seeing a dentist regularly.
  • Getting a flu vaccine every year.

Key takeaway

Head and tooth cancer is a cancer that occurs in the mouth and teeth. Symptoms of head and tooth cancer include a sore throat, hoarseness, a lump in the throat, and a cough that produces phlegm.

Treatment for head and tooth cancer depends on the type of cancer. Treatment for head and tooth cancer includes surgery and radiation therapy.

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