Most head and neck cancers are relatively preventable since they are highly correlated with tobacco use and alcohol consumption. They are also generally curable if caught early. Symptoms to watch out for include pain swallowing, trouble breathing, ear pain, a lump in the neck that lasts longer than two weeks, a growth in the mouth and bleeding from the mouth, nose or throat. Following is a description of cancers of the head and neck:
Malignant tissue in the bottom part of the pharynx is called hypopharyngeal cancer. The pharynx is a tube-like structure that goes from the back of the nose down to the windpipe and esophagus. Symptoms include sore throat and ear pain. Hypopharyngeal cancer is usually diagnosed through a physical examination, CT scan , MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), chest x-ray, esophogus x-ray or biopsy. Most hypopharyngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas – thin flat cells that line the inside of the organ. Unfortunately, this cancer tends to be detected in later stages because early symptoms are rare. This cancer typically requires surgery to remove the malignant tissue, followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy treatment.
Laryngeal cancer occurs when there is malignant tissue in the larynx. Symptoms include pain swallowing, trouble breathing, ear pain, a lump in the neck, persistent coughing, hoarseness and/or a change in voice. Over 90 percent of laryngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which respond well to surgery and radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Neck pain is often a result of overuse of the muscles and ligaments in the neck from sports, recreational activities, work or household chores. It is generally characterized by stiffness, a kink or severe pain in the neck, shoulders, upper back and/or arms. Neck pain can also be caused by stress, trauma or injury or may be a symptom of the flu or meningitis.
A neck strain refers to the pain resulting from a spasm of the muscles or inflammation of the joints in the neck. Shooting pains through the arms, hands and fingers may indicate a pinched nerve in the neck. Mild neck strains or sprains can be treated with home remedies and over-the-counter medications. More severe cases may require prescription medication, physical therapy and, in the most severe cases, surgery.
The neck houses and protects the top portion of the spine, known as the cervical spine. It is possible to fracture or dislocate bones in the cervical spine through injury or trauma, which can lead to paralysis. This type of injury requires immediate medical attention.
If you’re suffering from chronic neck pain or have had a neck injury, please contact our office and schedule an appointment with one of our otolaryngologists.