HEAD AND NECK CANCER AWARENESS – Dr Shirish Patil

Cancer has become a slow-growing pandemic disease now, with a whopping 300 % increase is the number of cancer victims in the past 1 year as reported by the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research.

Head and neck cancers comprise the major chunk of cancers of the entire body and these cancers have increased exponentially because of chronic smoking, alcoholism, tobacco chewing, and lifestyle diseases. Also, there is an increase in the incidence of cancer in people without any of these habits, which is definitely an eye-opener and provides further scope for research into the causative agent. In spite of extensive research for the exact cause of cancer, there is very little concrete evidence as to the triggering factor for cancer, which is another worrisome fact. Due to this alarming rate of increase in cancer incidence, everyone needs to be aware of how this deadly disease presents itself in the head and neck region.

Head and neck cancers are unique as compared to cancers that occur elsewhere in the human body as they can be easily screened by self-examination and diagnosis can be achieved with minimal intervention. Since these cancers can be detected early, their prognosis is also good provided the appropriated treatment is administered at the earliest.

ORAL CANCER

The most common cancer in India. The usual causative factors include chewing of betel nut and tobacco. Also, continuous irritation by a sharp tooth can cause it. It has a good prognosis when detected early. The usual symptoms include a nonhealing ulcer in the mouth which persists for more than 2-3 weeks in spite of adequate medical treatment.

THYROID CANCER

This mostly occurs in females. The most common symptom is the feeling of a vague node in the lower front neck which can be palpated with fingers. It is one of the best forms of cancer to have. It does not affect survival when detected early.

CANCER OF THE VOICEBOX ( Larynx)

Mostly seen in heavy smokers and alcoholics as the effect of the two together is super-additive. This cancer is usually detected early as the first symptom is a changed invoice which persists for 2-3 weeks in spite of adequate medical treatment. Hence it has a very good prognosis.

SALIVARY GLAND CANCER (Parotid gland )

This occurs in both males and females. No specific causative agent. Usually detected in early stages as the first symptom is swelling below or in front of the ear. It has a good outcome.

SKIN CANCER OF THE FACE AND SCALP

It is not very common among Indians as we have a tanned skin which adequate melanin. This usually occurs due to excessive exposure to sunlight without adequate melanin pigment in the skin. The first symptom is an ulcer on the skin or scalp which persists for 2-3 weeks in spite of adequate medical treatment. Usually detected in early stages hence prognosis is good.

THROAT CANCER ( Pharynx)

This mostly occurs in males. Very common in heavy smokers and tobacco chewers. The first symptom is usually difficulty in swallowing or a sensation of something sticking in the throat which persists in spite of drinking water.

So that sums up in brief about the most common head and neck cancers. Any cancer basically can be treated with 3 modalities viz., surgery, which is removing out cancer in its entirety, The next modality is chemotherapy which involves injecting medication into the body which kills the cancerous cells. And the last modality is radiation/radiotherapy which involves exposure to ionizing radiation. The last 2 modalities have a lot of side effects as they not only kill the cancerous cell but also affect the normal cells. Cancer is a fatal disease but it is curable when it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages. Hence everyone needs to be aware of the subtle symptoms of head and neck cancer for early diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

About the Author: Dr. Shirish Patil, MS ENT , FHNS ( RCC , Trivandrum) Head and neck Oncosurgeon
Patil ENT and Head neck cancer clinic, M G Bhavan, Behind Sanman hotel Belagavi.
Cell no -9591154575     Email: docshirishpatil04@gmail.com

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