Patients never want to hear they have cancer, but early diagnosis is essential for successful cancer treatment. If you’ve been suffering from issues having to do with your ears, nose, and throat, it’s a good idea to consider if cancer could be causing them. The following symptoms and signs of head and neck cancer will help you decide if it’s time to reach out to C/V ENT Surgical Group in West Hills, Encino or Westlake Village.
Cancers of the Head and Neck
Head and neck cancers usually start in the squamous cells lining the surfaces of the head and neck. As those cells become cancerous, they are referred to as squamous cell carcinoma. In addition to the head and neck, cancer can begin in the salivary glands.
Head and neck cancers are referred to where they begin. For instance, cancers can be referred to oral cancer when they begin in the mouth. Other areas where cancer can develop are:
- Pharynx (throat)
- Larynx (voicebox)
- Paranasal Sinuses and Nasal Cavity (hollow spaces in the bones of the head surrounding the nose)
- Salivary Glands (floor of the mouth/sublingual, upper neck/submandibular or near the jawbone/parotid)
People start to notice the symptoms and signs of head and cancer around the area it began. This is why ENTs often look for signs further away from the throat when they suspect cancer and don’t see anything during an examination.
Symptoms and Signs of Head and Neck Cancer
Tumors are what people usually look for when they suspect cancer, but another sign of it can be a persistent ear ache or sore throat. That’s why in addition to looking for sores and tumors, you should consider these symptoms.
- Trouble Swallowing
- Unexplained Weight Loss
- Change in Voice (Hoarseness)
- Ear Pain
- Persistent Congestion
- Trouble Breathing
- Nose Bleeds
Signs of head and neck cancer include:
- Lump(s) in Nose, Throat, or Neck
- Red or White Patches in the Mouth lasting for more than a month
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or seeing these signs, do not worry just yet. They can be symptoms and signs of another medical condition. The only way to know for sure if you have head or neck cancer is to speak to an experienced ENT doctor.
Diagnosing Head and Neck Cancer
Having the symptoms and signs of head and neck cancer isn’t enough to diagnose cancer. An ENT specialist will have to thoroughly examine the area(s) of concern and then perform procedures to conclude it is cancer.
Some of the procedures an ENT doctor will perform are:
- Endoscopy: This procedure includes inserting an endoscope into the mouth or nose to examine areas of the head and neck that’s easily seen.
- Panendoscopy: This diagnostic test examines the upper digestive system. If the ENT doctor finds tumors, he may remove some of them to be tested.
- Biopsy: This is the only test that can prove there is cancer. A sample of the tissue or cells from the area (usually a tumor) is tested to conclude if it is malignant or benign. Biopsies are conducted in two ways: incisional biopsy or fine needle aspiration.
- Imaging Tests: Diagnostic imaging tests for head and neck cancer include: computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance images (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
It may take a few days before you receive the results of the above procedures and tests. Try to remain patient and optimistic as you wait. Many times, people may believe they have cancer, but it’s something much less worrisome. Keep that in mind as you wait for the diagnosis.
Contact C/V ENT for Information on Head and Neck Cancer
C/V ENT Surgical Group is committed to keeping you safe and healthy. If you see the signs or notice the symptoms of head and neck cancer, contact us immediately for an appointment. Our ENT doctors in West Hills, Encino and Westlake Village will review the signs and symptoms and let you know what the next steps are based on them.