Risks and Warning Signs
Risks factors for head and neck cancer include heavy tobacco or alcohol use, unhealthy diet, poor mouth care, HPV infection, sun exposure, weakened immune system or inherited genetic disease. People older than age 40 have an increased risk and men are at 2 to 3 times greater risk than women.
Possible symptoms include:
- Growth or lump in the mouth, neck or nose
- Sore throat that does not go away
- Chronic sinus infections
- Trouble swallowing, speaking or breathing
- Pain in the ear, face, chin, neck, upper back, jaw or teeth
- Frequent headaches or nosebleeds
- Double vision
- Numbness in the face
- Swelling of the eyes, chin or jaw
- Unexplained weight loss
Physical Exams and Screening
Once your provider performs a physical exam, you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) or a head and neck surgeon. Tests for head and neck cancer include:
- Panorex films
- Barium swallow
- CT scan
- Blood tests
Based on the results of your test(s), your doctor will then determine what kind of cancer you have, and how aggressive it is. Types of head and neck cancer include:
- Cancer of the hypopharynx. Cancer cells are found in the tissues in the bottom part of the throat, behind and beside the voice box.
- Cancer of the nasopharynx. Cancer cells are found in the tissues of the upper part of the throat, behind the nose.
- Cancer of the oropharynx. Cancer cells are found in the back of the mouth or the middle part of the throat.
- Cancer of the paranasal sinus and nasal cavity. Cancer cells are found in the tissues in the small hollow spaces around the nose, known as the paranasal sinus and nasal cavity. The nasal cavity is just behind the nose.
- Cancer of the salivary gland. Cancer cells are found in the salivary glands. These glands are found just below the tongue, on the sides of the face in front of the ears, and under the jawbone. There are also salivary glands in different parts of the upper digestive tract.
Depending on various factors such as location of your cancer, lab test results, the stage of the disease and your overall health, there are a number of treatment options available for head and neck cancer. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and targeted therapy can all be used to remove tumors, stop the growth or spread of cancer cells, ease symptoms and prevent the cancer’s return.
Cancer treatment is available from ThedaCare at our clinics throughout northeast Wisconsin.
Living Well in Tough Times
Many people feel worried, depressed, and stressed when dealing with cancer. Getting treatment for cancer can be hard on your mind and body. Talk with your health care provider about problems or concerns you may have, and ways you can ease the effect of cancer on your daily life. ThedaCare offers support groups and one-on-one or family counseling, along with other resources to help you cope.