HEAD and NECK CANCERS are a collection of malignancies in the upper digestive tract, salivary glands and thyroid. Head and Neck Cancers can occur in the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx and larynx, this is in the throat, lips, mouth, and nose. 5% of people are affected with this disease and 3% of them die in some countries. In India this cancer ranks third among the other cancers and have unique characteristics, mainly because of socioeconomic conditions, large patient population, less number of trained health workers and so on.
Head and Neck Cancers are also termed as Squamous Cell Carcinoma. This cancer starts on the surface of the structures in the flat squamous cells in the thin layer of tissue in the head and neck. If the cancer is found in the squamous layer of the cell, it is known as Carcinoma in Situ, if it has grown beyond the cell layer and has moved into the deeper tissue, it is known as Invasive Squamous Cell Carcinoma, otherwise if it difficult to identify where it really began it is termed as the cancer of the Unknown Primary.
There are 5 main types of head and neck cancer, named according to where they have started in the body:
LARYNGEAL AND HYPOPHARYNGEAL CANCER:
This cancer starts in the larynx –that is the voice box, a tube-shaped organ in the neck that is important for breathing, talking and swallowing. The hypopharynx is the gullet that surrounds the larynx.
NASAL CAVITY AND PARANASAL SINUS CANCER:
This cancer starts in the air-filled areas that surround the nasal cavity.
This starts in the air passageway in the upper part of the nose.
ORAL AND OROPHARYNGEAL CANCER:
This cancer occurs in the mouth, tongue middle of the throat, from the tonsils to the tip of the voice box.
SALIVARY GLAND CANCER:
This cancer starts in the salivary glands that realize fluid into the mouth.
SYMPTOMS OF HAD AND NECK CANCER:
The symptoms are generally not known, but if any mass is found on the neck, ear, nose and throat should immediately consult a doctor, like
- swelling or a sore that does not heal (the most common symptom),
- if a red or a white patch is seen in the mouth,
- mass or lump in the head and neck region with or without pain,
- sore throat or change in the voice,
- the foul smell from the mouth,
- nasal congestion.
CAUSES OF HEAD AND NECK CANCERS:
- Alcohol and Tobacco are the major causes of cancer.
- Tobacco includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes and smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco, snuff and betel quid.
- Drinking any type of drink in excesses like beer, wine or liquor, there are chances of getting cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box.
- The cancer of the lips is from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, tanning beds.
- People who are working in the construction sites, textile, ceramic, logging and food processing industries are exposed to wood dust, asbestos, nickel and other chemicals, may get cancers in the nasopharynx.
- An infection or any other illness in the head and neck region can cause cancers in the nose, behind the nose and cancers of the salivary glands.
STATISTICS OF HEAD AND NECK CANCERS FROM INDIA:
Head and Neck Cancers in India are more compared to the other countries.75% of deaths might increase in South –East Asia alone, 30% of the cancer is in India. As India’s population is increasing by twice that of the world population in the last 15 years, there are chances of an increase in cancer burden also.
- Though head and neck cancers are common in men and women in the world, in India more men are suffering from this disease.
- Managing head and neck cancers in India is a problematic tissue when compared to Western countries because the patients are not serious about the follow-up treatments.
- India is a developing country so stress should be laid to detect the disease early and treat it.
HPV (HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUSES) VIRUS IN HEAD AND NECK CANCERS:
HPV related to head and neck cancers are increasing. They are of two types HPV related to head and neck cancers and HPV unrelated to it. HPV related to head and neck cancers respond better to treatment.
- Men between the age groups of 40 and 50 and who is a little exposed to tobacco and alcohol, HPV DNA is detected as the most common feature in them.
- In some countries, the smoking rate is decreasing so HPV-negative tobacco-related oropharyngeal cancer is also decreasing, but at the same time HPV –positive oropharyngeal cancer is increasing.
- HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer is a separate disease and the survival rate among these patients has improved, with radiation and anticancer drugs.
- Very soon Head and Neck Cancers associated with HPV will overtake the incidence of Cervical Cancer.
- One of the reasons is the number of people engaged in oral sex practices has increased and so are contracting HPV in the Head and Neck region.
- HPV—Head and Neck Cancer is now responding well to all therapies like—External Beam Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy and even Surgery.
HEAD AND NECK CANCER SURVIVAL RATES:
- Like all cancers, Head and Neck Cancers are also curable if diagnosed early.
- These cancers are of the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, lymph nodes and salivary glands.
- Luckily in the last 15 years, the survival rates for Head and Neck cancer has increased.
- Always a person should be alert if he smokes, drinks excessively and has an HPV infection, to see the doctor immediately is a good decision if he finds some unusual changes in the body.
RIBBON COLOURS TO IDENTIFY HEAD AND NECK CANCERS:
Burgundy Ivory Color ribbon on helping hand support,
Symbolic bow color for Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Throat, Laryngeal and Pharyngeal Cancer.