Hearing that you have cancer is never welcome news. All cancer is life-threatening and can feel overwhelming. Some types of cancer, such as head and neck cancers, are complex due to the number of specialists who must be involved in the treatment. Cancers that are known collectively as head and neck cancers usually begin in the cells that line the moist surfaces inside the head and neck, inside the mouth, nose and throat. Spending time to research on your own will help you ask the right questions in the doctor’s office.
Cause and Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer
At least 75 percent of head and neck cancers results from alcohol and tobacco use. If you use both tobacco and alcohol products, this puts you at a far greater risk of developing these cancers than those who use either or alcohol tobacco.
Symptoms include a lump in the throat area, a persistent sore that does not heal, a severe sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, and a change in voice. These symptoms do not necessarily indicate that you have cancer and may also be caused by other conditions.
Head and neck cancers account for 3 percent of all cancers. They are nearly twice as common in men than women. Head and neck cancers develop more often in those over age 50 than among younger people.
Head and Neck Specialty Team
A Denver CO head and neck cancer doctor can be any one of a number of specialists who form a multidisciplinary team. Each doctor will evaluate your case before treatment begins. Understanding the different types of doctors you will encounter is a great place to start.
- Medical oncologist who specialize sin treating cancer with medication
- Radiation oncologist who specializes in giving radiation therapy to treat cancer
- Surgical oncologist who specializes in treating cancer using surgery
- Plastic (reconstruction) surgeon
- Maxillofacial prosthodontist who performs restorative surgery in the head and neck areas
- Otolaryngologist who specializes in the ear, nose, and throat
- Oncologic dentist or oral oncologist, which are dentists experienced in caring for people with head and neck cancer
- Physical therapist
- Speech pathologist
- Audiologist, or hearing expert
- Psychologist or psychiatrist
Many cancers of the head and neck can not only be treated but can also be cured. The key is early detection. Although eliminating the cancer is the first concern of treatment, preserving nearby organs, nerves and tissues is also important. While planning a course of action for treatment, doctors have to consider how the treatment is going to impact a person’s quality of life. In the case of head and neck cancers, this includes how a person talks, eats, feels, looks and breathes.
The main treatment options are surgery, tobacco radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Often, reconstructive procedures are required to regain all the functionality in the impacted area. One of the best things you can do is stay positive and focus on the long game, which is staying healthy and healing.