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Head , Neck Cancer & Treatment :  

Cancer is a major problem in India. The estimated new cases of cancer in India per year are nearly 6.5 lakhs. Roughly 1 in 3 cases of these are in the head and neck area.Most of them can be cured if detected early. Public awareness is therefore of greater importance. Cells the basic unit of life –grow, divide, perform their functions and die. However, some cells do not die. Instead, they continue to divide at the expense of the neighboring normal cells. The extra cells form a mass of tissue called ‘cancer’.In the head and neck region cancers commonly occur in oral cavity (mouth); pharynx (throat); paranasal sinuses (small hallow spaces around the nose lined with cells that secrete mucus); nasal cavity(airway just behind the nose); larynx (“Adam’s apple” or voice box); thyroid Gland, Salivary glands (glands that secrete saliva).85% percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use and chewing Pan/gutkha etc.,. Symptoms of several head and neck cancer sites include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice, unusual bleeding and ear pain  these symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other more common and less serious conditions. It is important to check with a doctor about any of these symptoms. If doctor after examining the patient suspects a cancer, sample of tissue is taken from the suspected site & This is examined under the microscope (biopsy) by a pathologist to confirm a diagnosis of cancer. The doctor will want to learn the stage (or extent) of disease. Staging may involve an examination under anesthesia, X - ray, CT scan / MRI, and predict the chance of surviving the disease. Treatment consists of Surgery, Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy or a combination of the above modalities.

The treatment plan for an individual patient depends on a number of factors, including the exact location of the tumor, the stage of the cancer, and the person’s age and general health. Surgery involves removal of the cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it. In many cases it is possible to retain the function of the organ by performing “function preserving surgeries”. Lymph nodes in the neck may also be removed during the surgery If necessary. Surgery may be followed by radiation treatment.

Radiotherapy involves the use of high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external). It can also come from radioactive materials placed directly into or near the area where the cancer cells are found (brachytherapy). Chemotherapy involves treatment by anticancer drugs. This treatment is used to kill cancer cells throughout the body. Treatment of cancer is complete only when rehabilitation is done. A speech therapist is very important member of this team.

Medical science has come a long way in management of this deadly disease both in terms of curing it and also in reducing the discomfort and disability that the patient has to go through during the process of treatment. But crux of control of cancer still depends on avoiding the causative evils like smoking and pan chewing and early detection.

Awareness and early detection form the cornerstones for a happy outcome.


Smoking destroys U & others Too! quit now.


By Dr. Harindra M.N., Chief Consultant ENT Surgeon, Vikram Hospitals, Mysore


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