This form of treatment involves the use of various types of radiation to kill cancer cells in a specific area of the body.
Head or neck cancer refers to the growth of abnormal (malignant or cancerous) cells in the tissues of the head or neck. These cancers frequently start in the squamous cells that are located in the moist membranes (also called mucous membranes) that line the surface of the nose, mouth and throat. They are often called squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. The following cancers are included in the group of head and neck cancers.
After the diagnosis of a cancer in the head or neck, healthcare providers will look for spread of the head or neck cancer to the lymph nodes in the neck or tissues in other areas of the body. This process is called “staging.” Metastatic head or neck cancer is cancer that started in the mucous membranes of the head or neck and has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs and tissues. Your healthcare provider will need the following clinical information to decide what type of treatment is right for you.
Radiation therapy involves the use of various forms of radiation, or high-energy x-ray beams, to kill cancer cells in a specific area of the body. Radiation therapy can be used:
Radiation therapy can be given in various ways, depending on what type of cancer you have and where it is located in your body.
Some types of radiation therapy include:
Head or neck cancers can develop at any age. However, they are more common in men over 50 years of age. The risk factors for cancers of the head and neck include:
The primary ways to prevent cancers of the head and neck are by not using tobacco and limiting alcohol intake. Good oral hygiene is also very helpful. In addition, being aware of your risk factors can improve your prognosis by leading to early diagnosis and treatment.
The symptoms of head and throat cancers vary depending on the location of the cancer. These symptoms can be similar to those of other less serious conditions, so medical evaluation is necessary. Some of the symptoms include:
Contact your healthcare provider if you have any of the above symptoms. He or she will review your symptoms and do a physical examination. They may also recommend one of the following tests:
A biopsy is needed to determine if an abnormality is cancer. If your biopsy indicates you do have cancer, additional testing may be needed.
The treatment for head or neck cancer is based on many factors, including:
Treatments for head or neck cancer are either local (only affects the area of the cancer) or systemic (affects all areas of the body). Local treatments include:
The systemic treatments include:
Treatment for head and neck cancer may involve a combination of local and systemic treatments, especially if the cancer has gone to other parts of your body. You may also have more than one type of treatment at a time.
To get a full range of opinions and perspectives, you may want to consider input from a variety of doctors. This group may include:
It is important to remember that the total cost of this care path does not include all possible medications, lab work, or imaging studies. Those charges can add up. If your healthcare provider recommends any lab work or imaging studies, you may need to search for their costs separately.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of head or neck cancer. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms and how long you've had them.
What should I ask my healthcare provider before having radiation therapy?
It is important you understand all home care instructions (including medications and side effects) and follow-up plans.
Don't forget to make arrangements for help at home.
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