Every year, Asia witnesses nearly 80,000 new cases of head and neck cancer—a term which refers to cancers of the oral cavity, buccal mucosa, lips, larynx, and hypopharynx.
Head and neck cancer is considered a lifestyle disease. The underlying risk factors are smoking, use of smokeless tobacco, alcohol consumption, viral infections, and poor diet.The common symptoms are painless ulcers or sores in the mouth that do not heal, a mass or pain in the neck, sinus congestion, and white or red patches in the mouth.
Head and neck cancer can be diagnosed by physical examination/blood and urine tests, endoscopy, biopsy, molecular testing of tumor, and CT/PET-CT/MRI scans.
The mainstays of treatment in the early stages are radiotherapy or surgery. Advanced diseases are treated either by surgery with postoperative radiotherapy or by definitive radiotherapy alone.
In recent years, randomised trials have confirmed the survival benefits of adding chemotherapy to radiotherapy. Cisplatin-based regimens have been identified as the most active and are now standard treatment choices. However, this regimen is more beneficial for young patients. In platinum-unsuitable patients, targeted therapies, along with radiotherapy, have shown good survival benefits.
This article has been written by Dr. Deepak Kumar Shukla, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Manipal Hospital, Jaipur