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Head and Neck Cancer Awareness

 April is National Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month.  Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, sinuses/nasal cavity, salivary glands, and neck tissues.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that over 65,000 Americans will develop head and neck in the United States this year.

Head and neck cancers are curable if caught early.  Fortunately, most of them produce early symptoms. You should know the potential warning signs so you can alert your primary care physician as soon as possible.  Successful treatment of head and neck cancer depends on early detection and knowing and recognizing its signs can save your life.

There are several head and neck cancer symptoms, including:

– Lump, bump, or mass in the head or neck area, with or without pain

– Persistent sore throat

– Hoarseness or change in voice

– Nasal obstruction or persistent nasal congestion

– Frequent nose bleeds and/or unusual nasal discharge

– Blood in the saliva or phlegm

– Ear and/or jaw pain

Although eliminating the cancer is the primary goal of head and neck cancer treatment, preserving the function of the nearby nerves, organs, and tissues is also very important.  When planning treatment, doctors consider how treatment might affect a person’s quality of life, such as how a person feels, looks, talks, eats, and breathes.  Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, and the patient’s preferences and overall health.

At the Cancer Treatment Center at Hazleton, we treat head and neck cancer noninvasively with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT).  EBRT is an effective treatment for head and neck cancer, working within cancer cells to limit their ability to multiply.  During treatment, high-energy X-rays are delivered to the cancer with a linear accelerator (LINAC).  The treatment process is painless, safe, and takes about 10 to 15 minutes.  Side effects that can occur may require medication and most patients return to routine activities immediately after completing treatment.  Sometimes a combination of treatments that may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy is the best plan for treating head and neck cancer.