Health is an asset and if not preserved, it would be lost for ever. In today’s world of increased health complications and lifestyle related problems, it has become really tough to stay healthy and one can witness the world coming upside down when we get diagnosed with some chronic ailment and cancer being the biggest and dreadful of all.
Of all the prevalent cancer types, head and neck cancer is the most common and accounts for 28% of the deaths. There has been a rising demand of more specific treatment options and care with the advent of advancement in medical technology.
On the occasion of World Head and Neck Cancer Day that is declared recently and will be observed every year on 27July, also the Famous Hollywood personality Michael Douglas endorsed the event and the declaration, we all should pay required attention on the rising cases of Head and Neck Cancer in India as well as worldwide.
There have been continuous efforts by the government and civil societies to decrease the use of tobacco which is the leading cause of Head and Neck Cancer. This has reduced the incidence of head and neck cancers in the country but still there are many other prevailing causes for this type of cancer.
What are Head and Neck Cancer?
Let us first understand that what type of cancers is considered as Head and Neck Cancer. Cancers that usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat) are categorised under the umbrella of Head and Neck cancer. These squamous cell cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. Apart from this, these cancers can also begin in the salivary glands which contain many different types of cells that can become cancerous, so there are many different types of salivary gland cancer.
Alcohol and tobacco use (including smokeless tobacco, sometimes called “chewing tobacco” or “snuff”) are the two most common and prominent factors for head and neck cancers, especially cancers of the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx. Almost 75% of head and neck cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol use. Tobacco and alcohol use are not risk factors for salivary gland cancers.
Many other types include Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV) which includes oropharyngeal cancers that involve the tonsils or the base of the tongue. It usually takes years after being infected with HPV for cancer to develop and its symptoms may include a long-lasting sore throat, earaches, hoarseness, swollen lymph nodes, pain when swallowing, and unexplained weight loss. Some people even do not show any symptoms.Thyroid, Para thyroid and skull base tumours are other forms that affect large population.
Treatment depends upon the size of the tumor and Overall health of the Patient. Initial recommendations include:
1) Stop tobacco– most important in early stages as changes can halt and might revert back, in other stages a least it will not further progress.
2) Injection of local steroid with mouth opening exercise.
3) If these do not work then surgery, Radio therapy and Chemotherapy are widely used treatment options.
We all should shift our focus from treatment to precaution and there should be a mass level awareness programme that can educate people about the demon of Head and Neck Cancer.