Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancers encompass several different diseases that can affect the mouth, nose, throat and other surrounding areas. Over 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer each year, as these diseases account for 3 to 5 percent of all cancers. Many cases of head and neck cancer can be prevented through lifestyle changes.
Several different types of cancer can affect the areas of the head and neck. Most begin in the lining of moist, mucosal surfaces such as the mouth, nose and throat. The cells in the lining are known as squamous cells, and may therefore be affected by squamous cell carcinomas. The different types of cancer associated with the head and neck include:
- Oral cavity
- Salivary glands
- Nasal cavitiy
- Pharynx (including nasopharynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx)
- Lymph nodes
Head and neck cancers are most often caused by tobacco and alcohol use, especially cancer of the oral cavity and larynx. Other factors that may lead to cancer include sun exposure, HPV, and radiation exposure. Tobacco use is linked to 85 percent of head and neck cancers.
Fortunately, many people with head and neck cancers experience symptoms right away that lead to an early diagnosis of the condition. Symptoms of head and neck cancers vary depending on the type of cancer, but may include:
- Lump in the neck
- Hoarseness or other change in the voice
- Growth in the mouth
- Blood in saliva
- Difficulty swallowing
- New or changed growths on skin
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, your doctor may perform an endoscopy, blood and urine test, imaging test and biopsy, along with a complete physical examination. Treatment for these cancers depends on the type and location of the tumor, as well as the patient’s age and overall health. Treatment often includes surgery to remove the cancer, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It is important to discuss treatment options with your doctors, as certain methods may have long-term effects on the way you look, talk, eat or breathe. Making healthy life changes, including avoiding smoking and alcohol use, will help prevent the disease from recurring, as well as reduce the risk for other diseases.
Skin Cancer Reconstruction
Most cases of skin cancer can be successfully and thoroughly removed through an excision procedure that removes the entire tumor and any roots. Despite its high level of efficiency, skin cancer excision often leaves behind large wounds or scars in prominent areas such as the face or hand. These deformities can be emotionally upsetting and a constant reminder of the skin cancer that once existed there. Fortunately, plastic surgery can be performed to repair the wound and restore your skin to a more healthy and natural appearance.
Reconstruction can often be performed the same day or the day after the removal procedure. Reconstructive procedures are performed on an individualized basis, depending on each patient’s wound, and can involve a skin graft, flap of skin, stitching or surgical closure.
While complete tumor resection is the main goal, your doctor also takes your appearance into consideration by leaving as much healthy tissue as possible. Reconstruction uses this remaining healthy tissue to carefully restore the area for both effective and aesthetic results.