Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Overview

Head and neck cancers most frequently affect one of the following areas:

  • Throat
  • Larynx (voice box)
  • Tonsil or base of tongue
  • Nose and sinuses
  • Tongue or oral cavity
  • Salivary gland
  • Neck lymph nodes

The most common type of head and neck cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. These cells arise from the outer layer of cells that line the mouth, nose, tongue, tonsils, throat, and skin. They look flat and scaly under a microscope (squamous).

Treatment depends on the type of cancer and location where it first began. The most common treatment options are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

A combination of these treatments may also be used.

Types

Common head and neck cancers may develop in the following areas: 

TypeLocation where cancer begins
Oral cancersLips, mouth, gums, or tongue
Salivary cancerSalivary glands
Pharyngeal cancerThe area at the back of the throat. This includes the back of the nose, and the base of the tongue and tonsil area (pharynx)
Laryngeal cancerVoice cords or voice box
Nasopharyngeal cancerLining in the area behind the nose and above the throat 

Some head and neck cancers (such as salivary gland cancer) require different treatment.

Nasopharyngeal cancer is more common in Asian populations. It’s usually treated with radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Risk Factors

While the cause isn’t always clear, certain factors increase your risk for developing head and neck cancer. These include:

  • History of smoking or tobacco use. Most head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use.
  • Infection with human papilloma viruses (HPV).
  • Exposure to asbestos, especially for laryngeal cancer.
  • Exposure to radiation and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

Many cancers of the tonsil and base of the tongue (oropharynx area) are associated with HPV. This virus can cause cervical cancer in women and be spread as a sexually transmitted disease.

EBV exposure increases the risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.

To reduce your risks:

  • Avoid smoking and tobacco products. If you’re currently smoking, it’s very important that you stop.
  • Limit your intake of alcohol.

Symptoms

Depending on the location, common symptoms of head and neck cancer can include:

  • A lump, lesion, or sore that doesn’t heal
  • A mass in the neck
  • Change in voice
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A persistent white or red patch in the mouth, or on the gums or tongue
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Swelling under the jawbone
  • Paralysis of the face
  • Ear pain or hearing loss
  • Difficulty breathing

Diagnosis

To diagnose head and neck cancer, we’ll ask about your medical history and do a physical exam.

We may order diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Endoscopy. A lighted, thin tube with a camera on one end is inserted through your nose or mouth to view your mouth, nose, throat, airway, and swallowing tube (esophagus).
  • CT scan of the head and neck.
  • MRI of the head and neck.
  • PET scan to detect the extent of cancer in the head and neck, and if the cancer has spread to other parts of body.
  • Fine-needle biopsy or core biopsy. A small sample of abnormal tissue (such as lymph nodes in the neck) is removed with a thin needle and sent to a lab to view under a microscope.
  • Biopsy of the mouth or throat. This may be done in our clinic or an operating room.

Treatment

Treatment of head and neck cancer depends on the type, location, and severity of the cancer. Once we identify this, we’ll work with you to create a treatment plan. 

The most common treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, and sometimes chemotherapy. You may need a combination of these treatments.

Additional References:

Follow-Up Care

It’s important to take care of yourself during and after treatment.

  • Avoid smoking.
  • Eat healthy foods including plenty of green, leafy vegetables.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Attend all follow-up appointments.
  • Join a support group. You can talk with others who have similar experiences.

If you smoke, it’s time to quit. People who continue to smoke after a diagnosis of head and neck cancer have a higher risk of cancer recurrence.

We have many resources to help you quit smoking, so ask us if you need help.

Related Health Tools:

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