Head and Neck Cancer
What is Head and Neck Cancer?
Cancers may arise in the lining of the nose, mouth, throat or voicebox. Depending on where the cancer started, it may be more specifically called an oral cancer (when it started in the mouth or tongue), an oropharyngeal cancer (when it started in the tonsil or base of tongue) or larynx cancer (when it started in the voicebox).
Sometimes, some of the cancer cells will detach from the site or origin and drift into lymph nodes in the neck. When this happens, the cancer is said to have spread or metastasized.
Lymph nodes are specialized filters within the body, containing immune cells that help to ward off infection. When cancer cells become trapped in a lymph node, they may grow into a lump that can be felt through the skin. Someone may become aware of a lump in the neck but have no other symptoms such as a sore in the mouth or throat.
In recommending treatment, doctors consider where the cancer started, its extent or size, and whether it has spread. Doctors have also have started to consider the cause of the cancer in recommending specific types of treatment.
Treatment Options for Head and Neck Cancer
In recommending treatment, doctors consider where the location of the cancer, its extent or size, and whether it has spread. Treatments for oral cavity cancer may be quite different from those for oropharynx, larynx or nasal cancers.
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Sometimes, the unique features of a cancer suggest that it could be controlled successfully using one of several different treatments. For example, some patients with cancer on the vocal cord could have cancer removed surgically with a laser, or they may undergo radiation treatments. Either approach is likely to be effective. On the other hand, a patient with a more advanced cancer may require the coordinated treatments of several doctors to successfully control the cancer. For example, some patients with cancer may need radiation, even after surgery removes the cancer, to increase the odds that the cancer will not recur.
At Fox Chase Cancer Center, patients often meet with more than one doctor during their initial evaluation. A coordinated evaluation by doctors with specialized areas of expertise will ensure that treatment will not only successfully cure the cancer, but also suit the specific needs of the patient and preserve quality of life.
Topics in This Section
- About Head and Neck Cancer
- Patient Care Team
- Causes of Head and Neck Cancer
- Oral Cancer
- Oropharyngeal Cancer
- Larynx: Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer
- Nasal, Paranasal Sinus, and Nasopharyngeal Cancers
- Treatment: Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy
- The Head and Neck Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center
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