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GaramChai features Medical articles by Dr.Kumaresh Krishnamoorthy
And Neck Cancers
Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells in an orderly
way. Sometimes, however, cells do not die. Instead, they continue
to divide and create new cells that the body does not need.
The extra cells form a mass of tissue, called a growth or
tumor. Cancer growth invades normal structures near the growth
and spreads to other parts of the body. Metastasis is the
spread of cancer beyond one location in the body.
kinds of cancers are considered cancers of the head and neck?
Most head and neck cancers begin in the cells that line the
mucosal surfaces in the head and neck area, e.g., mouth, nose,
and throat. Mucosal surfaces are moist tissues lining hollow
organs and cavities of the body open to the environment. Normal
mucosal cells look like scales (squamous) under the microscope,
so head and neck cancers are often referred to as squamous
of the head and neck are further identified by the area in
which they begin:
cavity. The oral cavity includes the lips, the front two-thirds
of the tongue, the gums, the buccal mucosa (lining inside
the cheeks and lips), the floor (bottom) of the mouth under
the tongue, the hard palate (bony top of the mouth), and
the small area behind the wisdom teeth.
glands. The salivary glands produce saliva. There are many
salivary glands; the major ones are in the floor of the
mouth, and near the jawbone.
sinuses and nasal cavity. The paranasal sinuses are small
hollow spaces in the bones of the head surrounding the nose.
The nasal cavity is the hollow space inside the nose.
The pharynx is a hollow tube about 5 inches long that starts
behind the nose and leads to the foodpipeq and the trachea
(the tube that goes to the lungs). The pharynx has three
Nasopharynx: The upper part of the pharynx behind the nose.
Oropharynx: It is the middle part of the pharynx. The oropharynx
includes the soft palate (the back of the mouth), the base
of the tongue, and the tonsils.
It is the lower part of the pharynx.
The larynx, also called the voice box, is a short passageway
just below the pharynx in the neck. The larynx contains
the vocal cords.
nodes in the upper part of the neck. Sometimes, squamous
cancer cells are found in the lymph nodes of the upper neck.
When this happens, the cancer is called metastatic squamous
of the thyroid as well as those of the scalp, skin, muscles,
and bones of the head and neck are also grouped with cancers
of the head and neck.
are the major contributing factors for head and neck cancers?
causes for head and neck cancers are tobacco and alcohol use,
including cigarettes, snuff, chewing tobacco, betel leaf,
lime, areca nut, paan and gutka. Combining tobacco and alcohol
use poses an even greater risk. Other causes include: Viruses
(herpes simplex virus, Epstein-Barr virus and the human papilloma
viruses) Occupation (workers in nickel refining, asbestos
and wood- and leather-working industries) Radiation exposure
(radium watch dial painting and thorotrast ingestion). This
exposure can come from diagnostic x-rays or from radiation
therapy for noncancerous conditions or cancer. Poor oral hygiene,
use of mouthwash that has high alcohol content, diet deficient
in Vitamin A and beta-carotene are possible, but not proven,
are the warning signs of head and neck cancers?
Having any of the following symptoms for more than two weeks
warrants a visit to a head and neck specialist:
A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal for more
than 3 weeks
A lump on the lip or in the mouth or throat that persist for
more than 3 weeks
A white (leukoplakia) or red patch on the gums, tongue or
lining of the mouth
Unusual bleeding, pain or numbness in the mouth
A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the
throat that lasts for more than a month or that does not respond
Difficulty or pain with chewing or swallowing
Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or
A change in the voice or hoarseness lasting more than 3 weeks
Pain in the ear without evidence of local ear problems
Loose teeth not associated with any gum problems
Unintended weight loss
Swelling, numbness, paralysis of the muscles in the face or
pain that does not go away in the face, chin, or neck.
Chronic sinus infections that do not respond to treatment
Bleeding through the nose, frequent headaches, swelling or
other trouble with the eyes.
These symptoms may be caused by cancer or by other, less serious
conditions. Sometimes there are no warning signs.
can be done to reduce the risk of developing a second new
who have been treated for head and neck cancer have an increased
chance of developing a new cancer, usually in the head and
neck, food pipe or lungs. The chance is higher for people
who smoke and drink alcohol. Patients who do not smoke should
never start. Those who smoke should do their best to quit.
Krishnamoorthy, M.S (ENT)
Head and Neck Surgery Fellowship (Buffalo, USA)
Neurotology & Skull Base Surgery Fellowship (Cincinnati,
Senior Consultant in ENT - Head and Neck Surgeon and Skull Base
Apollo Hospitals, 154/11, Bannerghatta Road, BANGALORE 560 076,
Phone: 91-(0) - 99002 36819