Head and neck cancers are cancers that occur in the ear, nose, mouth, salivary glands, throat and thyroid. These cancers are grouped and treated together by ENT specialists due to their proximity to each other.
Head & neck cancers constitute 12% of all malignancies in the world, and is the fifth most common cancer type and cause for cancer-related deaths globally.
Symptoms of Head & Neck Cancer
Typical symptoms include a persistent sore throat, swallowing difficulties and a sore in the mouth that will not heal. There are also other specific symptoms associated with head & neck cancers such as, but not limited to:
Causes of Head & Neck Cancer
There are various risk factors associated with head & neck cancers. The main risk factors are related to tobacco (cigarettes and smokeless tobacco) and alcohol consumption. Other risk factors include:
Diagnosing Head & Neck Cancer
During a visit to a head & neck specialist clinic, ENT doctors will first analyze your medical history. Next, they will conduct a physical examination of your neck, ears, eyes, nose, mouth or throat, depending on your symptoms.
To help doctors determine the presence of cancer and extent of the tumor growth, other tests can be done on the suspected area.
Nasendoscopy: An endoscope is used to examine the nasal cavity, larynx and throat. With the aid of local anesthesia, a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera attached to the end will be inserted down the nose for doctors to look for suspicious growths.
Laryngoscopy: Similar to the previous test, an endoscope is inserted down the throat for doctors to examine the voice box and throat. With the aid of general anesthesia, a biopsy can also be performed on the inner lining of the throat.
Biopsy: Tissue cell samples removed from the nasal cavity and throat will be taken to a laboratory for a closer examination. A pathologist will commonly be able to check for the presence of cancerous cells.
Head and Neck Cancer Treatments
Head and neck cancer treatments can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy or a combination of treatments. The unique treatment plan drawn for each individual patient will depend on factors like where the tumor is located, how advanced the cancer is, the patient’s age, and his/her general health.
Depending on the type of head & neck cancer the patient has, ENT doctors may recommend surgery to remove the cancerous tissue while preserving the functions of the head & neck, like breathing, talking and swallowing, as much as possible.
Risk Associated With Head and Neck Cancer Treatments
All treatments have their risks. Certain side effects associated with head and neck cancer treatments can be temporary, while others may have lasting effects.
Surgery can cause problems with your vocal cords and make it difficult for you to chew, swallow and talk normally. Most patients will improve over time, but there are some whose effects stay permanent.
Radiation therapy and chemotherapy can cause patients to feel sick and tired, suffer from a loss of appetite, weight loss, and have an increased vulnerability to bleeding and infections.
Consult Leading Head & Neck Specialists in Singapore
At Amandela, we provide subspecialty care that you can trust and rely on throughout your recovery journey. Talk to our leading head and neck specialists to get expert advice and support for cancer treatments today.
Amandela ENT Head & Neck Center
Mount Elizabeth Novena
38 Irrawaddy Road #10-45/47
T: 6694 1990
F: 6694 1992
Biz Reg No. 201210742D