Cancer is a very frustrating disease since it can affect virtually any part of the body with devastating results. Two areas in particular in which cancer cells can originate and grow are the head and neck. Cancer may also develop in these areas when cancer has spread from other parts of the body. Like most other forms of cancer, the best opportunity to effectively treat this very serious disease is to diagnose it in the earliest possible stage. So it’s very important to understand and identify the key head and neck cancer symptoms. Let’s understand this further.
The head and neck areas of the body are generic terms which can mean almost thirty different areas. Any of them can become affected by cancer.
Those people most affected by head and neck cancer tend to be heavy users of tobacco and alcohol. It can also affect people who have been exposed to dangerous chemicals and fumes. And certain viruses can increase the risk factor for developing head and neck cancer.
Cancer of the mouth or oral cancer occurs when cancer cells are present in the roof of the mouth; floor of the mouth; tongue; inside lining of the cheeks and lips; walls of the throat; and gums.
The kinds of symptoms to look for in this area include the following:
- Unexplained loss of weight
- Pain or difficulty in swallowing
- Problems with speech
- An unusual taste in the mouth
- A lump in the mouth which won’t go away
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Swelling in the jaw area
- Persistent bad breath
If the cancer forms or spreads to the area of the throat, it can cause the following important symptoms:
- Sore throat or a painful throat
- Difficulty in speaking
- Hoarse voice
- Unexplained weight loss
For cancer which may form and grow in the nose, look for these symptoms:
- Blocked nasal passages
- Sinus infections which don’t get better
- Bleeding of the nose
- Persistent headaches or migraines
- Sense of smell is affected
This type of cancer can also affect the salivary gland. If this occurs, be alert to a swollen jaw or chin; numbness of facial muscles; and pain in the chin or face.
And cancer can affect the neck in the following ways:
- Enlarged or swollen lymph nodes
- A heavy feeling around the neck
- General neck or throat pain
If any of these symptoms occur, you are encouraged to seek medical attention to get them checked out and hopefully identify any cancer in the earliest possible stages. This is why understanding head and neck cancer symptoms are so important.
In order to properly diagnose the presence of cancer, a variety of imaging and physical exams may be required. Often x-rays are taken of the affected areas. And a biopsy is usually obtained so that a pathologist can test for the presence of cancer cells.
If a positive diagnosis is made, there are many treatment options which may be employed. The specific course of treatment will depend on the type of head and neck cancer, its stages and the health of the patient.
Surgery is the most common form of treatment since the objective is to remove as much of the cancerous tissue as possible. Radiation of chemotherapy may also be employed to shrink the tumor and kill off as many stray cancer cells as possible. Even a few remaining cancer cells has the potential to cause a recurrence of cancer in the future so doctors do their best to remove it all.