Head & Neck Cancer Treatment

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Understanding Head and Neck Cancers: Impact, Symptoms, and Treatment

Head and neck cancers are a group of malignancies that can develop in various areas of the head and neck, including the mouth, throat, larynx, nose, and sinuses. It accounts for 30% of all cancers in India. With 1,19,992 new cases and 72,616 deaths due to oral cancers in 2018, India has the highest oral cavity cancer patients in the world.

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to the development of head and neck cancers, including:

  • Tobacco use: Tobacco use is the leading risk factor for head and neck cancers, accounting for about 75% of all cases.
  • Alcohol use: Alcohol use is another major risk factor for head and neck cancers, and its effects are compounded when combined with tobacco use.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: Certain strains of HPV can increase the risk of developing head and neck cancers, especially oropharyngeal cancer.
  • Occupational exposure: Certain occupations with prolonged exposure to certain chemicals, such as asbestos or formaldehyde, can increase the risk of developing head and neck cancers.


The symptoms of head and neck cancers can vary depending on the location of the tumor. Some common symptoms include:

  • Persistent sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing or a sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Changes in voice quality or persistent voice hoarseness
  • Ear pain or a persistent earache
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Swelling or lumps in the neck


The diagnosis of head and neck cancers is made through a combination of tests and procedures, including:

  • Physical exam: The doctor will perform a physical exam to look for any signs of cancer, such as lumps or swellings.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests, such as CT scans, MRI, or PET scans, can be used to look for tumors or other abnormalities.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure in which a small piece of tissue is removed from the body and examined under a microscope to look for cancer cells.

Treatment Options

The treatment of head and neck cancers depends on the type of cancer, the stage of the cancer, and the patient's overall health. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery: Surgery is the removal of tumors or affected tissue.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy beams to kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy is the use of drugs that target specific proteins on cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is the use of the body's own immune system to fight cancer cells.

Side Effects

Treatment for head and neck cancers can cause a number of side effects, which can vary depending on the type of treatment. Some common side effects include:

  • Mouth sores and dry mouth
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Changes in taste or loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Skin changes in the treated area

Follow-Up and Outcomes

Long-term follow-up care is crucial for head and neck cancer patients. Key aspects include:

  • Regular surveillance: Periodic check-ups, imaging tests, and blood work to monitor for recurrence or new cancers.
  • Rehabilitation and support: Speech therapy, swallowing exercises, and nutritional guidance to improve functional outcomes.
  • Support groups and counselling: Emotional and psychological support for patients and their families throughout the journey.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of head and neck cancers, it is important to see a doctor right away. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for the best possible outcome.

If you have any questions or would like personalized medical advice regarding Head and Neck cancer, please feel free to contact Dr Madhuri at Apollo Cancer Institute, Jubilee Hills. We are here to support you throughout your cancer journey.

Note: This article serves as an educational resource and should not replace professional medical advice. Consult with a qualified healthcare provider for personalized information and recommendations regarding head and neck cancers.