Head and Neck Cancers
Head and Neck Cancers make up almost 30% of cancers among Indians. The major culprits are chewing tobacco, betel nut, paan, smoking cigarettes and consuming excessive alcohol. Another risk factor is an infection with the HPV which increases the risk of throat cancer.
Head and neck cancers are cancers that start in the tissues and organs of the head and neck. They include:
- cancers of the larynx (voice box)
- Salivary glands
Head and Neck Cancers comprise almost 30% of the cancers among Indians.
- Tobacco consumption
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- A sore in the mouth, not healing for more than 3 weeks
- Change of voice
- Difficulty in chewing, and swallowing
- A lump in the neck
- Bleeding, pain or numbness in the nose or mouth
- Difficulty in opening mouth
- Facial, neck or ear pain
Having any of these symptoms does not mean you have cancer, but if you notice one or more of them for more than two weeks, please see your doctor and go in for an immediate health screening.
After clinical examination of the head and neck region, scans (CT, MRI, or ultrasound), PET – CT scan are done to determine whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck or other areas of the body. Endoscopy is also done to check the extent of tumour and biopsy is performed to confirm the diagnosis.
The treatment can include a combination of the above procedures depending upon the type, site and size of the tumour.
Treating Head and Neck cancers requires a multidisciplinary team of doctors (Head & Neck Oncosurgeons, Neurosurgeons, Reconstructive surgeons, Dental surgeons, Radiation oncologists & Medical oncologists) who address all dimensions of treatment, for the best outcome.
At first, ideally, a comprehensive personalized care plan should be drawn up for each individual patient after the cancer is diagnosed. Surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination could be used, depending upon the type, site and size of the tumour. This approach is what the best centres in the world use and it has been scientifically proven to produce the best results. Radiation is delivered using the Novalis Tx system, the fastest in treatment speed, precision and simplicity, to accurately target tumours. In addition, if needed minimally invasive surgery techniques such as Trans Oral Laser Surgery and Trans Oral Robotic Surgery (TORS) using the Da Vinci Robotic surgery system, are used.
Head and Neck Cancer can be prevented and cured if detected early. While treating though, the challenge lies in maintaining a fine balance between complete cancer clearances and making sure that the patient does not lose the ability to speak, swallow and breathe or a gross distortion of facial features. Highly skilled Reconstructive Surgeons use a microsurgery technique that uses miniaturized surgical instruments and a microscope to connect blood vessels in the leg bone (fibula) to blood vessels in the neck. Similarly, surgeons can use skin and muscle from a patient’s thigh, hand or intestine to replace part of the neck, tongue, and throat. The Oncology Team’s approach should ensure not only cure but also the maintenance of appearance and quality of life.