Cancers that are known collectively as head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck. These squamous cell cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the mouth, nose, sinuses, salivary glands, throat, and lymph nodes in the neck. Most begin in the moist tissues that line the mouth, nose and throat. Symptoms include:
• Hypopharyngeal Cancer
The Hypopharynx is the bottom part of the pharynx (throat).The pharynx is a hollow tube about five inches long that starts behind the nose and goes down to the neck to become part of the esophagus (the tube that goes to the stomach). Air and food pass through the pharynx on the way to the windpipe (trachea) or the esophagus.
Cancer of the Hypopharynx is a disease in which cancerous (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of the hypopharynx. Cancer of the hypopharynx most commonly starts in the cells that line the hypopharynx, called squamous cells, and is called squamous cell cancer. If cancer starts in the lymph cells of the hypopharynx, it is considered non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
• Hypopharyngeal Cancer
There are three main parts of the larynx: the glottis (the middle part of the larynx where the vocal cords are located); the supraglottis (the tissue above the glottis); and the subglottis (the tissue below the glottis). The subglottis connects to the trachea, which takes air to the lungs.
Cancer of the larynx is a disease in which cancerous (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of the larynx. It is most commonly found in people who smoke. If a person who smokes develops cancer of the larynx, they should stop smoking.
• Salivary Gland Cancer
The symptoms that may indicate such cancers are painless and/or increased swelling under the chin or around the jawbone, numbness of the face, inability to move the face muscles and facial pain, chin or neck pain as well.
• Thyroid Cancer
Cancer of the thyroid is a disease in which cancerous (malignant) cells develop in the tissues of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland makes important hormones that help the body function normally.
Surgery: During surgery, the goal is to remove the cancerous tissue and some of the healthy tissue around it . A surgical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer using surgery. Types of surgery for head and neck cancer include:
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs work by disrupting the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs are usually given into a vein (intravenously). As the drugs circulate in the bloodstream, they can reach cancer cells all over the body. When chemotherapy is given to treat head and neck cancer, it’s usually given in combination with radiotherapy. Chemotherapy has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of radiation therapy, improving cure rates compared to radiation therapy alone for advanced cancers such as those originating in the nasopharynx.
Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy alone or in combination with chemotherapy is standard curative treatment for many patients with head and neck cancers. Which approach is used depends on the extent of the tumor; radiation and chemotherapy are used in combination when treating more advanced disease. In selected situations, such as oral cavity tumors, the patient undergoes surgery followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy or a combination of radiation and chemotherapy may be used to treat patients who would develop significant side effects from the surgery, those with inoperable cancers or those who have a poor prognosis after surgery.
Minimally invasive surgical techniques are used when it is possible to remove the tumors that are located near the structures involved in sensory and physical functioning. In many cases, patients can recover more quickly when treated with minimally invasive surgery compared with traditional or open surgery.
Endoscopic Laser Surgery: This technique may be used to remove tumors in the larynx (voice box) or pharynx (throat) while preserving the structures involved in speech and swallowing. The surgeon inserts a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope through the patient’s mouth and into the throat. Surgeons remove the tumor using a special laser that is attached to the endoscope. Endoscopic laser surgery is often performed on an outpatient basis with a safe, fast-acting anesthetic that wears off quickly after the procedure.
Minimally Invasive Video-Assisted Thyroidectomy (MIVAT): A tiny video camera that is attached to an endoscope is used to remove thyroid tumors through a small incision.
Robotic Surgery: Tumors of the tongue and tonsils can be removed with the aid of small robotic arms that are placed in the mouth, avoiding the need to make a large incision or to split the jawbone.
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