Head and neck region cancers make up 10% of all cancers, one of today's common diseases. Head and neck cancers, the most important causes of which are smoking and HPV (human papilloma virus); It occurs in the nose, mouth, oral cavity, lips, pharynx, adenoid, larynx, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, salivary gland and esophagus. While smoking-related head and neck cancers occur in later ages, HPV virus can cause this disease at earlier ages. It is important to stay away from smoking by getting HPV vaccine in childhood in order to prevent head and neck cancers, which can cause life-threatening if left untreated. Early diagnosis increases the comfort of treatment by preventing the spread of head and neck cancers to other parts of the body. Associate Professor from Memorial Şişli Hospital, Department of Ear Nose and Throat Diseases. Dr. Selçuk Güneş gave information about modern diagnosis and treatment methods in head and neck cancers.
550 people a year are diagnosed with head and neck cancer
All over the world, approximately 550 thousand people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer every year. The most important cause of head and neck cancers is smoking. Smokers have a 5-25 times higher risk of head and neck cancer than non-smokers. In addition, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and human papilloma virus (HPV) constitute an important risk factor in head and neck cancers.
HPV causes early head and neck cancer
Genetic factors and alcohol use also increase the risk of head and neck cancers. Head and neck cancer types, which have a complex development process, are as follows:
- nose cancer
- mouth cancer
- Intraoral cancer
- lip cancer
- pharyngeal cancer
- Nasal cancer
- throat cancer
- thyroid gland cancer
- Parathyroid gland cancer
- salivary gland cancer
- Esophageal cancer
Don't underestimate voice changes and nasal congestion
The first symptoms of head and neck cancers vary according to the location of the tumor. For example, the first sign of a tumor developing in the larynx is usually a change in voice. Voice changes lasting more than two weeks, nasal congestion, difficulty in swallowing solid food, sores in the mouth, painless swellings on the cheek or neck may be symptoms of head and neck cancer. People who experience these symptoms, especially those who smoke, should see an otolaryngologist, who is an expert in the field, without wasting time. A detailed physical examination of the physician, computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MR), and imaging methods such as positron emission tomography (PET-CT) can be used to diagnose the patient.
Early diagnosis increases treatment comfort and success
Head and neck region cancers can be successfully treated in nearly 90% with early diagnosis. The comfort of the patient is less affected by the methods applied while treating the cancerous tumor diagnosed early. With these methods, it is possible to plan the treatment in a way that will disrupt the functions the least. In addition, many conditions related to the patient are taken into account when choosing the treatment method. Considering factors such as the patient's additional diseases, age, functional capacity, mental capacity, and motivation, the most appropriate treatment for the stage of head and neck cancer can be successfully performed with a multidisciplinary team work.
Modern surgeries are at the forefront
In the treatment options of head and neck region cancers, only surgery and only radiotherapy can be used, as well as combined treatments consisting of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy in advanced tumors. Immunotherapy, which has been developed in recent years, has also started to be used as a promising method in the treatment of head and neck cancers. Surgical treatment is an important treatment option in almost every stage of head and neck cancer. The important thing here is to inform the patient very well and to apply the right treatment to the right patient by experts. In this way, the possibility of unnecessary loss of function of the patient can be minimized.
Functional losses can be minimized by tissue transfer.
Tissue transfers can be performed to minimize the loss of function that may occur in the preferred surgical method in the treatment of head and neck cancers. Loss of function is minimized by transfers from neighboring areas and transfers from distant parts of the body. In recent years, 3D technology, which has also entered the field of medicine as a major technological development, has paved the way for the production of personalized reconstruction materials that can be used for reconstruction purposes. In addition, thanks to laser technology, especially laryngeal surgeries can be performed through the mouth and loss of function can be minimized.