Delta Medix Patient General Information

Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer arises in the head or neck region, such as the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat, or larynx (voice box). Almost all oral cancers begin in the flat cells (squamous cells) that cover the surfaces of the mouth, tongue, and lips. Oral and laryngeal cancer cells can spread by breaking away from the original tumor.

They enter blood vessels or lymph vessels, which branch into all tissues of the body. The cancer cells often appear first in nearby lymph nodes in the neck. The cancer cells may attach to other tissues and grow to form new tumors that may damage those tissues. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.

Symptoms of laryngeal cancer

  • A hoarse voice or other voice changes for more than three weeks
  • A sore throat or trouble swallowing for more than six weeks
  • A lump in the neck
  • Trouble breathing
  • A cough that does not go away
  • An earache that does not go away

Symptoms of oral cancer may include

  • Patches inside your mouth or on your lips (white, red, or mixed)
  • A sore on your lip or in your mouth that does not heal
  • Bleeding in your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Difficulty when wearing dentures
  • A lump in your neck
  • An earache that does not go away
  • Numbness of lower lip and chin

These symptoms may be caused by another health problem. Anyone with these symptoms should tell their doctor and dentist so that problems can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.

Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancer

  • Surgery to remove the tumor in the mouth or throat is a common treatment for oral cancer. Sometimes the surgeon also removes lymph nodes in the neck. Other tissues in the mouth and neck may be removed as well. You may have surgery alone or a combination of treatment with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
  • Radiation Therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells. It is an option for people with any stage for laryngeal or oral cancer. It may be used after surgery to destroy cancer cells that remain in the area.
  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs that treat laryngeal and oral cancer are usually given through a vein (intravenously). The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often given at the same time.
  • Targeted Therapy may be given along with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Cetuximab (Erbitux) was the first targeted therapy approved for oral and laryngeal cancer. Cetuximab binds to oral cancer cells and interferes with cancer cell growth and the spread of cancer.