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Cancer of the Head and Neck

Head and neck cancers can be of many types, based on the area where they are found.

  • Oral Cancer
  • Salivary Gland Cancer
  • Laryngeal Cancer
  • Hypopharyngeal Tumors
  • Nasopharyngeal Cancer
  • Hypopharyngeal Tumors
  • Tumors of the Oropharynx
  • Tumors of the Nasal Cavity

Symptoms of head and neck cancer can range from a lump in the neck to hoarseness of voice to even a growth in the mouth. A person may notice a change in voice. A person suffering from mouth and tongue can lead to sores. Basal cell cancer of the skin is another form of head and neck cancer. Early detection of head and neck cancer is vital to timely treatment. Most of these cancers lead to identifiable symptoms. Blood in the saliva or phlegm can indicate mouth, nose or throat cancer. Persistent earache and difficulty in swallowing can be due to infection or tumor in the throat. Cancer of the nasal cavity can result in nose blockage, pain in the forehead and face numbness.


Most common causes for head and neck cancers are smoking, chewing tobacco and alcohol. Other probable factors for head and neck cancer are are HPV infection, asbestos exposure and excessive sun exposure. A person suffering from Epstein Barr virus is at higher risk for developing head and neck cancer. Do not ignore a persistent lump on the neck or tongue or jaw. Consult a doctor when you notice difficulty in swallowing for more than a few weeks.


A doctor will conduct a physical examination and probably take a biopsy of any suspicious lymph nodes or tissues. If a cancer of the head or neck is detected, further tests will be needed to judge the extent of spread. The type of treatment usually depends on the extent of spread of the tumor.

PET scan

PET - Positron Emission Tomography scan is a non-invasive test that aids in imaging the cellular functions and body tissues. It helps in observing the blood flow, oxygen use, and glucose metabolism. A PET scan is of immense help in the diagnosis of cancer, heart disease and brain disorders. The PET scan has been of particular help in the diagnosis of brain tumors, head and neck cancer and esophageal cancer. Since the PET scan reveals metabolic changes in the cells, it aids in early detection of certain conditions such as epilepsy. A PET scan involves injection of a small amount of radioactive tracer drug such as FDG-18. After an hour when the radioactive tracer has spread to the body, the scan is taken. The tracer emits tiny positively charged particles (positrons) that produce signals. A PET scan produces three-dimensional color images from the images taken by a camera that records the tracer as it travels through the body. It is often combined with a CT scan to study a particular body area. Lactating mothers must not breast feed their babies for a few hours after the PET scan.


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Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: December 11, 2017