The main culprit which is responsible for this is Tobacco. The habit of chewing tobacco in different forms like Jarda, Gutkha, pan masala , bidi , cigarette etc causes cancer . It is well established fact. That is the reason for making it mandatory by the government to mention that ‘tobacco causes cancer’ in tobacco pouches or packets . Though tobacco causes cancer in different other parts of the body as well in this article we will be discussing on head and neck cancer as April is the Head and neck cancer awareness month. Head and neck cancer is mainly a disease of Indian subcontinent so we need to be aware of this disease.
Some signs and symptoms:
1.Any ulcer or growth in the mouth or oral cavity which is not increasing in size or not getting cured with common medicines
2. Voice change
3. Difficulty in swallowing food
4. Prolonged nasal blockage
5. A lump in the neck
There are some lesions which are called precancerous lesions are often found in tobacco users. Whitish or reddish patch in the mouth called leukoplakia or erythroplakia, these are precancerous lesions that means these can turn into cancer.
As the treatment modalities are improving the cure rate of head and neck cancer is also improving. Most of cases can be cured if detected before it has spread to the distant sites . In common terms till stage 3.
There are two curative modalities of treatment in Head and neck cancer, Surgery and Radiation therapy. Chemotherapy plays an adjunct role to increase the effect of radiation or surgery. Most of the patients need more than one modalities of treatment like surgery and radiation or radiation and chemotherapy combined together.
There has been a lot of improvement in surgical techniques,even robotic surgery also is being done in head and neck cancer similarly the radiation treatment has seen a sea change in treatment delivery. Old conventional two dimensional treatment is no longer offered, Now a days with improved machines call Linear accelerator and modern imaging modalities and computer softwares Intensity modulated radiotherapy is the standard practice. These techniques decreases the side effects significantly and also makes it possible to deliver adequate dose to the tumour saving the surrounding normal structures which was impossible with older technology.
With the newer modern radiation technology now a functional larynx can be preserved in larynx cancer which is a great relief for the patient when his or her normal voice is preserved .
This is the time when we should spread the awareness and motivate people to quit tobacco at the same time detect the head and neck cancers early to cure them completely and rehabilitate the patient in the society with minimum long term side effects. As a cancer specialist it is my appeal to you all to be aware, please do not neglect early signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer and please do not hesitate to seek advice from an oncologist. Even if it turns out to be non cancerous it is best diagnosed by an Oncologist only . Excluding cancer is more important than establishing other causes which can be treated easily. Last but most importantly please motivate your friends and family members to quit tobacco.