The head and neck area is prone to developing malignancies such as squamous cell carcinoma. The treatment options depend on the nature of cancer and the location of the primary site. Oral cancer, for example, requires a very different treatment regimen from malignant tumors located in the pharyngeal tract.
Generally, head and neck tumors occur in the following regions.

-Sinus cavity
-Nasal tract
-Oral cavity including palate, gums, tongue, lips, cheeks and salivary glands
-Larynx or voice box

Risk Factors for HNC


The principal risk factor is, of course, smoking and chewing of tobacco. Smokers who have smoked more than 20 years are at considerable risk of developing some form of oral or throat cancer. Addiction to alcohol adds to the risk of developing HNC from tobacco. Book an appointment with an oncologist to assess your risk profile.

Human Papilloma Virus

HPV infections are often associated with head and neck cancers. HPV is also responsible for cervical cancer in women. The increase in the number of HPV infections, some believe could be the cause of the rise of HNC.


The presence of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and heavy metals such as nickel and chromium produced by the combustion of fossil fuel is a significant risk factor second only to smoking. If accompanied by poor dental hygiene and weak immunity, the risk increases.

Major Symptoms

Sometime, symptom of Head and neck cancer has been ignored by people, which leads to worst situation. The most noticeable symptoms include –

-Difficulty in swallowing
-Feeling a lump when gulping
-Pain in head and neck region that radiates through the trigeminal nerve in cheek and ear
-Cough and sputum
-Hoarse voice
-Sore throat without a cold

HNC Diagnosis

The primary care provider, usually an ENT doctor or maxillofacial surgeon/dentist, would refer the patient to an oncologist. The cancer specialist would first review the medical history and any comorbid factors such as high sugar, hypertension, and cardiac problems.
This is followed by a detailed examination of the affected area. In the case of the mouth and parts of the nasal cavity, the doctor can inspect with the help of mirrors. In case the discomfort is in the upper respiratory tract, endoscopy is useful for a clear picture.
After the physical examination, a needle biopsy that draws a sample of the cells is essential for Neck Cancer Treatment. Usually, the biopsy is under local anesthesia. However, if lymph nodes have swollen, they may need partial excision under general anesthesia.
Other diagnostic methods include a standard array of blood tests, tests of other biological markers such as C-Reactive Protein, followed by ultrasound, and CT scan if needed.
The oncologist pays special attention if cancer has metastasized or spread to other regions.

Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancers

1. Surgery
The first and best option in Neck Cancer Treatment is surgery. This is particularly useful if cancer has not metastasized and is in a location that is easy to reach. In the case of large tumors, there will be some disfigurement caused by the surgery, such as large scars. These are later treated with cosmetic procedures.
The operation is always under general anesthesia and requires admission. It is performed by a surgical oncologist who is guided by radiographic images of the soft tissue. Laparoscopic surgery may not be possible, and the incision will take up to a week to heal. The tissue that is removed is sent for cytological examination.

2. Radiotherapy
If the entire cancerous tissue cannot be removed by surgery, radiation is necessary to target the remaining area.
The most utilized variety of radiotherapy is EBT or External Beam Therapy. A powerful beam of x-ray is generated outside the patient's body and directed at the exact site through a sophisticated tracking mechanism.
Some oncologists also prefer to use IMRT or Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy. This treatment uses advanced computer software to deliver radiation to the cancerous area from multiple angles. IMRT causes less damage to healthy tissue and is more accurate.
The duration of the treatment is for five days a week, lasting up to four weeks. The procedure is painless and has minimum side effects.

Specialists may suggest chemotherapy with drugs besides radiotherapy or used as a standalone treatment. The therapy usually varies between 3 and 6 cycles, spaced three weeks apart. The exact treatment regimen is decided by an oncologist following medical tests after each cycle.
Chemotherapy is one of the most effective ways to fight head and neck cancer that has spread. However, it has several side effects, mostly nausea, impermanent hair fall, weight loss, and fatigue.

Closing Words

Treatment of all forms of cancer, including HNCs, is always improving incrementally. Modern treatment protocols are far less invasive and disruptive than those two decades back.
However, cancer is a significant ailment, and the oncologists cannot, despite trying their best, prevent all discomfort. A supportive family and counselor play an equally important role in recovery.

Author's Bio: 

I am Sakshi and I am a blogger, traveller and a creative thinker.