What advice can you offer to help me live with the effects of head and neck cancer?

After treatment for laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer, special help may be needed to adjust to the effects of treatment. The type and duration of side effects depends on the type and extent of treatment. Some side effects are temporary, and some are permanent. We're here to assist patients and their families in successfully managing any side effects. Doctors, nurses, dietitians and speech therapists can suggest ways to deal with side effects. It may help to talk with another patient, too. In many instances...

Clinical trial decision for head and neck cancer

Clinical trials are studies that help evaluate a new treatment. Clinical trials do two things: they attempt to answer scientific questions and they find new and better ways to help cancer patients. An institutional review board (IRB) carefully reviews each clinical trial before patients begin participating. Also, some studies are reviewed by government agencies, such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A patient may or may not wish to participate in a clinical...

Since surgery is a frequently used in treating head and neck cancers, is there a risk of disfigurement?

It's true that surgery often is a treatment for head and neck cancers. That's because surgery is a good way to remove the disease, especially when the cancer has been diagnosed early. Reconstruction may be part of the treatment plan. The physician will discuss treatment options, including reconstruction, with the patient before any surgery takes place. Reconstructive surgical innovations in the past 15 years have created a positive impact on quality of life after treatment.

How are head and neck cancers staged and what, exactly, does that mean?

A staging system is a clinical evaluation, based on the best possible estimate of the extent of the disease prior to treatment. Head and neck cancers are commonly staged using the TNM system. T describes the size of the tumor. N describes the extent of the spreading to the lymph nodes. M is an indicator of metastasis or spreading of the cancer to other organs. The physician needs to know the extent, or stage, of the disease so he or she can determine the best course of treatment. Understanding staging helps...

How will a physician make a diagnosis of head and neck cancer?

If a physician suspects a head and neck cancer, he or she will order specific diagnostic tests, depending upon the location of the cancer. These tests may include: Physical examination Inspection of oral and nasal cavities using mirrors and fiber-optic scopes Examination of suspicious lesions Examination of the back of the tongue Blood tests, including a complete blood count and liver function test A blood draw to check for the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibody measurement CT, PET, MRI imaging or X-rays Bio...

What are the warning signs of head and neck cancers?

Warning signs of head and neck cancers depend on the location of the cancer. Sometimes there are no warning signs. That's why men and women over 40 may wish to get an annual cancer-related health checkup, especially if they use tobacco or alcohol. Having any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks warrants a visit to a physician: A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal A lump on the lip or in the mouth or throat A white (leukoplakia) or red patch on the gums, tongue or lining of the m...

What are the risk factors for head and neck cancers?

There are many risk factors for head and neck cancers. Age and lifestyle factors, such as alcohol and tobacco use, are the biggest. But risk factors vary, depending on the type of cancer. Laryngeal cancer Lip and oral cancer Oropharyngeal cancer It's important to note that having any or all of the known risk factors does not necessarily mean that a person will develop a head and neck cancer. On the other hand, having no risk factors does not mean that a person cannot develop a head and neck cancer, either. ...

What are the major contributing factors for head and neck cancers?

The major causes (etiologic factors) for head and neck cancers are tobacco and alcohol use, including cigarettes, cigars, snuff, chewing tobacco, betel leaf, lime, catchu and areca nut, and marijuana. Combining tobacco and alcohol use poses an even greater risk. Learn how to kick the tobacco habit. Other causes include: Viruses (herpes simplex virus and the human papilloma viruses) Genetic predisposition (further study on this issue is being conducted) Occupation (workers in nickel refining and wood- and le...