Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

Every year from April 11 to 17, Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week is observed. Every year, more than 54,000 Americans are diagnosed with cancers of the mouth, head, and neck. Oral Cancer Awareness Month is observed in April, with a week dedicated specifically to head and neck cancers.

The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (H.C.N.A.) founded Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week in collaboration with the American Academy of Otolaryngology. The HC.N.A. is a non-profit organization that collaborates with healthcare providers and organizations, patients, and survivors to increase efforts to prevent, treat, and detect head and neck cancers. They also assist patients in locating resources and contribute to the research of these cancers.

What is Head and Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancers are a type of cancer that starts in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces of the mouth, nose, throat, and, in rare cases, the salivary glands. These squamous cell cancers are also known as head and neck squamous cell carcinomas.

Types of Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers are as follows: ● Hypopharyngeal Cancer

● Laryngeal Cancer

● Lip and Oral Cavity Cancer

● Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer with Occult Primary

● Nasopharyngeal Cancer

● Oropharyngeal Cancer

● Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer

● Salivary Gland Cancer

What causes Head and Neck Cancer?

Tobacco and alcohol use are the leading causes of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas of the mouth and voice box

Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV), particularly HPV type 16, is a risk factor for oropharyngeal cancers of the tonsils or tongue base (10–12). The incidence of oropharyngeal cancers caused by HPV infection is increasing in the United States, while the incidence of oropharyngeal cancers caused by other causes is decreasing

Paan (betel quid): The use of paan (betel quid) in the mouth, a common Southeast Asian custom, is strongly linked to an increased risk of mouth cancer

Occupational risk: Wood dust exposure at work is a risk factor for nasopharyngeal cancer. Certain industrial exposures, such as asbestos and synthetic fibers, have been linked to voice box cancer, but the magnitude of the risk increase is debatable

Radiation poisoning: Radiation to the head and neck for noncancerous or cancerous conditions is a risk factor for salivary gland cancer

Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus: Infection with the Epstein-Barr virus is linked to nasopharyngeal cancer and salivary gland cancer

Ancestry: Asian ancestry, particularly Chinese ancestry, is associated with an increased risk of nasopharyngeal cancer

Underlying Genetic disorders are at the root of the problem. Certain genetic disorders, such as Fanconi anemia, can increase the risk of developing precancerous lesions and cancers in childhood

Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer can be difficult to detect because symptoms are frequently mild and can mimic less serious conditions such as a cold or sore throat. The most common symptom of head and neck cancer is a persistent sore throat. Symptoms of cancers in specific areas of the head and neck include:

The oral cavity: A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or mouth lining; jaw growth or swelling that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable; and unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth

Throat (pharynx): Pain when swallowing; persistent pain in the neck or throat; ringing in the ears; or difficulty hearing

The voice box (larynx): Breathing or speaking difficulties, swallowing pain, or ear pain.

The nasal cavity and the paranasal sinuses: Sinuses that are blocked and do not clear; chronic sinus infections that do not respond to antibiotic treatment; nose bleeding; frequent headaches, swelling, or other eye problems; pain in the upper teeth; or denture problems.

The salivary glands: Swelling under the chin or around the jawbone, numbness or paralysis of the muscles in the face, or persistent pain in the face, chin, or neck.

Tests to diagnose Head and Neck Cancer

There are numerous tests available to diagnose head and neck cancer. Not all of the tests described here will be used on every individual. When selecting a diagnostic test, your doctor may take the following factors into account:

● The type of cancer suspected

● Your signs and symptoms

● Your age and general health

● The results of earlier medical tests

Head and neck cancer can be diagnosed using these following tests:

● Physical examination/blood and urine tests

● Endoscopy

● Biopsy

● Biomarker testing of the tumor

● X-ray/barium swallow

● Panoramic radiograph

● Ultrasound

● Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan

● Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

● Bone scan

● Positron emission tomography (PET) or PET-CT scan

Head and Neck Cancer: Types of Treatment

Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of treatments may be used to treat head and neck cancer. A person's treatment plan is determined by a number of factors, including the location of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, and the person's age and general health.