What is Head and Neck Cancer?
Head and neck cancer is any cancer in which tumors form in the throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), or tube between your mouth and stomach (esophagus).
Diagnosing head and neck cancer
Head and neck cancer can be diagnosed through a variety of means including an endoscope (a lighted instrument that provides video images of the throat), laryngoscope, physical exam, chest x-ray, scanning the esophagus with a camera (esophagoscopy), esophagus biopsy or a barium swallow.
If cancer is detected, you may be referred to an oncologist who will use further testing to determine the cancer’s stage.
Treating head and neck cancer
Radiation, chemotherapy, laser therapy, electrocoagulation (electric current) and surgery (especially in the instance of esophageal cancer) are all common forms of head and neck cancer treatment. In more advanced stages of cancer, surgery may be more invasive and can affect how a patient breathes, speaks or swallows; if the voice box is removed, a speech pathologist will teach the patient how to communicate.
Following treatment, patients often have specific nutritional needs as eating and swallowing can be difficult.