Head & Neck Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, cancers that are known collectively as head and neck cancers usually begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (for example, inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat). These squamous cell cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck.

The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the United States are for 2017:

  • About 49,670 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
  • An estimated 9,700 people will die of these cancers.

These cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women. They are about equally common in blacks and in whites.

In recent years, the overall rate of new cases of this disease has been stable in men and dropping slightly in women. However, there has been a recent rise in cases of oropharyngeal cancer linked to infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) in white men and women.

First sign of trouble? – lateral neck masses in adults (click here for source):

Location of cervical lymph nodes most frequently affected by metastasis from named primary sites in head and neck. Gleeson M, Herbert A, Richards A. Management of lateral neck masses in adults. BMJ : British Medical Journal. 2000;320(7248):1521-1524.

  • 75% of lateral (side) neck masses in patients over 40 years are caused by malignant tumors
  • In the absence of overt signs of infection, a lateral neck mass is metastatic squamous cell carcinoma or lymphoma until proved otherwise
  • The primary tumor can be detected in 50% of patients by clinical examination alone and in a further 10-15% by panendoscopy of the upper aerodigestive tract
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy is an accurate, sensitive, inexpensive, and rapid technique that can be performed in the clinic
  • Excisional and incisional biopsy of cervical metastases results in a 2-3 times increased incidence of local treatment failure when compared with fine needle aspiration cytology
  • Excisional biopsy of parotid tumours risks damage to the facial nerve and seeding of the wound, and recurrence may develop up to 20 years after the first attempt at resection

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