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Head & Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers are those cancers affecting the throat, lips and oral cavity, nasal cavity and salivary glands. While uncommon in the U.S. with only about three percent of cancers consisting of neck and throat cancer, men are almost twice as likely to develop this type of cancer as women and older people are more at risk Our trained specialists and advanced treatments can provide the best in medical care and treatment so that you can beat head and neck cancers. Having served Mobile and the larger Gulf Coast for over 100 years, Infirmary Health’s cancer team is dedicated to ensuring that every single one of their patients gets the quality care that they deserve.

Contact us today to discuss your treatment options.

Types of Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer can affect any one of the organs or systems in the outer head or neck region. Each cancer is different and has different risk factors and symptoms.

General signs of head and neck cancers include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Voice changes or hoarseness
  • Continuous sore throat
  • Lump or sore that doesn’t heal

Lip and Oral Cavity

Lip and oral cavity cancer are the uncontrolled growth of cells in the lips and mouth. This type of cancer usually starts in the mouth’s leukoplakia and spreads to a patient’s tongue, lips, roof palate, inside of cheeks or the bottom of the mouth. Symptoms of lip and oral cavity cancer include white or red patches on the tongue, gums or lining of the mouth. Other symptoms can include voice changes, jaw swelling, bleeding and pain in the mouth and lumps or swollenness of the mouth.

Pharynx (Throat)

Cancer of the pharynx includes cancers of the trachea, esophagus and larynx. There are three types of pharynx cancers:

  • Oropharyngeal: cancer of the back of the tongue, soft palate and side and back walls of the throat and tonsils
  • Nasopharyngeal: cancer of the upper part of the pharynx, behind the nose.
  • Hypopharyngeal: cancer of bottom of the pharynx.

Common symptoms of pharynx cancers include breathing and swallowing difficulties, tongue paralysis, loss of weight, voice change, pain swallowing, continuous throat and neck pain, headaches, nosebleeds, hearing issues and ringing in the ears.

Paranasal Sinuses and Nasal Cavity

This type of cancer forms in the soft tissue near the nose and the sinus cavities. Common symptoms of this cancer are continually blocked sinuses, continuous sinus infections, headaches, eye swellings, mouth swellings, upper tooth pain and lumps either in the nose or in the face or roof of the mouth.

Salivary Glands

Cancer of the salivary glands is rare but can sometimes begin in the glands and spread. Symptoms of salivary gland cancer include fluid in the ear, problems swallowing or opening mouth, swelling, and growths in the salivary glands and jawbone, numb or paralyzed facial muscles, chin or neck pain.

Risks and Diagnosis

While many factors increase a patient’s risk, the most serious risk is alcohol or tobacco use. In cancers of the mouth and throat especially 3/4ths of these cancers could be traced back to alcohol and tobacco use. The greatest risk arose from the combined use of these substances. Exposure to other environmental substances as well as poor hygiene has also been linked to an increased risk.

Diagnosis of head and throat cancers usually involves biopsies, laboratory tests and imaging to determine the presence of cancer. Each type of head and neck cancer has different tests that can be performed to determine their presence and our staff is trained in a wide variety of these tests.

Treatment of Head and Neck Cancers

Once a patient has been diagnosed with head or neck cancer, their physician will look at a wide variety of factors including the patient’s history and cancer type to determine the treatment. These can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery and targeted therapy. Targeted therapy seeks to use certain DNA characteristics of cancer cells to find and destroy them while leaving healthy cells intact.

To learn more about these treatments, reach out to our team today.

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