New Brunswick, N.J., April 9, 2021 –Accounting for approximately four percent of all cancers nationwide according to the National Cancer Institute, head and neck cancer is the term used to describe a number of different malignant tumors that develop in or around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses and mouth. Even though these cancers are not as prevalent as others, everyone should be aware of risk factors and symptoms.
Risk Factors and Symptoms
Alcohol and tobacco use are major risk factors for head and neck cancers. Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV) also increases a person’s risk of certain head and neck cancers. The areas where these cancers are found support vital bodily functions, such as eating and breathing, so the symptoms of head and neck cancers can be disruptive. The most common symptom of head and neck cancer is swelling or a sore that does not heal. Other symptoms may include difficulty breathing, jaw pain, loosening of the teeth, double vision, persistent nose bleeds or difficulty chewing or swallowing.
Detection and Treatment
Individuals can be proactive and self-screen by checking the neck for lumps, bumps or swelling, examining the inside of cheeks and paying attention to the skin in and around the mouth/chin for any changes or abnormalities. Additionally, regular health appointments provide medical professionals the opportunity to monitor for any abnormalities in the head and neck region.
Head and neck cancer treatment can vary based on the type, location, and extent of the cancer. Often, the recommended approach is surgery. During surgery, the goal is to remove the cancerous tumor and some surrounding healthy tissue without impacting function. Like many cancers, it is sometimes impossible to completely remove the tumor. In cases such as this, surgeries may be paired with radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
The majority of head and neck cancer cases are preventable with certain lifestyle modifications. To reduce the chances of developing head and neck cancer, individuals should consider eliminating tobacco use, avoid drinking alcohol and talking to a doctor about vaccines against HPV. In addition to these steps, individuals should also talk with their doctor about their medical history and lifestyle to determine personal risk of cancer.
The Head and Neck Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey provides state-of-the-art, comprehensive care for patients with benign and malignant tumors of the head and neck region, working collaboratively with experts across the RWJBarnabas Health oncology service line. Learn more: https://www.cinj.org/patient-care/head-and-neck-oncology-program
Sung Kim, MD, is a radiation oncologist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, clinical director of Radiation Oncology at University Hospital, an RWJBarnabas Health facility and professor of Radiation Oncology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Matin Imanguli, MD, DDS is a head and neck oncologic surgeon and chief of the Division of Head and Neck Oncologic and Reconstructive Surgery at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and sees patients at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
Malini Patel, MD, is a medical oncologist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and a member of the Lung Cancer/Thoracic Oncology Program and the Head and Neck Oncology Program.
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