Cancer is an abnormal, unchecked growth of the cells of a particular part of the body. Without any treatment, the disease may keep on progressing and spreading to the other parts of the body, causing many complications and ultimately leading to death.
Irrespective of the person’s ethnicity, socio-economic status and geographic location anyone can get cancer.
If the cancers are detected in the timely manner and present in the curable stages, they can be treated by the experts of the disease itself. They can be cured and the patient can live a cancer-free life.
The hallmark of any cancer is to grow out of proportion and to spread. If the cancer is left alone, it will grow larger and spread in the surrounding areas and distant organs. This leads to uncurable state , where it cannot be treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It can grow into the windpipe causing difficulty breathing, or into the food pipe leading to difficulty eating, or into a major blood vessel that may lead to uncontrollable bleeding.
With proper treatment by the expert of the disease, even the patients with advanced disease may also have a reasonable survival. After a complete treatment and rehabilitation , they can live a normal, healthy life.
The stage of cancer is a way of presenting the extent to which the tumour has grown and long term prognosis after the treatment. Commonly, cancers are staged from Stage 1 to Stage 4. Stage 1 and 2 are early stage cancers and stage 3 and 4 are advanced stage cancers.
Neoplasm or tumour is essentially the same thing. It is an abnormal mass of tissue growing in an uncoordinated way and persisting even when the stimuli responsible for growth has been removed. A tumor is said to be benign when its characteristics are considered relatively harmless, suggesting that it wouldn’t spread to near-by or distant organs. Malignant tumors are collectively referred to as cancers, derived from the Latin word for “crab”, because they invade the tissues like a crab. Malignant tumors can invade and destroy adjacent structures and spread to distant parts of the body.
Head & Neck is a group of cancers that starts within the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, sinuses, or salivary glands. Because Head & Neck cancer involves the digestive and respiratory tracts, tumors – if left untreated – can interfere with eating, swallowing, and breathing. Cancers of the Head & Neck region give symptoms very early and hence can be easily diagnosed in an early stage. An individual using tobacco or its products needs to be very vigilant as there are various pre cancerous conditions before development of cancer which can be diagnosed early and treated giving better results and avoiding fatal outcomes.
They are 6th most common cancers in the World and are amongst the commonest cancers in India. They constitute more than a third of the total cancer burden in India and are responsible for over 8 lakh cases every year.
In case of any such doubt, one should present them to a trained Head & Neck cancer surgeon. The patient will undergo a thorough clinical examination of the Head & Neck region. A fiberoptic laryngoscopy/nasendoscopy may also be needed. Clinical examination is supplemented with radiologic imaging. This may include X-ray, Ultrasonography, CT scan, MRI scan or PET scan as clinically applicable. Along With that, a small part of the lesion is biopsied and sent for histopathological examination by a Pathologist (under a microscope).
If you notice any of the Head & Neck cancer symptoms, it is important to notify the expert Head & Neck doctor immediately. Early detection and treatment is the key to successful treatment. Certain factors can predispose a person more likely to get Head & Neck cancer than others. However, just having one or more risk factors does not mean that the person will definitely get Head & Neck cancer.
Head & Neck cancer is often difficult to diagnose early because many people only experience mild symptoms. The Head & Neck cancer surgeon examines your mouth and upper aerodigestive tract thoroughly. In addition to a thorough physical examination, your physician also uses blood tests, imaging techniques such as x-rays, CT scan, magnetic resonance (MRI) imaging, PET scan , endoscopy and biopsy to make an accurate diagnosis and develop the most appropriate treatment plan.
Head & Neck cancer is often difficult to diagnose in the early stages, because they present with only mild symptoms. That is why it is so important to see your Head & Neck doctor regularly, especially if you are a smoker or drinker.
If you are suffering from Head & Neck cancers , after a proper physical examination and other work up, you will be staged accurately and based on that , the best treatment plan is decided to give you the best chance of cure along with a good quality of life. Treatment depends on the type and the stage of cancer. Precise treatment for Head & Neck cancer involves surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or any combination. In addition to tumor removal, the treatment includes restoration of swallowing, eating and speaking functions. Plastic surgery and speech therapy are sometimes required for cosmetic and functional reasons after surgical removal of Head & Neck tumors.
This is one of the most common questions asked by the patients. In some cases, according to the stage and type of the disease, cancer can recur or a new cancer can form after treatment. In general cancers diagnosed in the early stages tend to remain controlled, while the advanced staged cancers tend to recur. One of the goals of Dr Supreet Bhatt and his Head & Neck Onco Team is, to help patients come over with their fears about cancer recurrences, so that they can lead productive, fulfilling lives. Another goal is to ensure that survivors realize the importance of regular, periodic check-ups after their treatment for cancer.
There are two simple ways to prevent oral cancer and other types of Head & Neck cancer – quit using tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco or snuff) and reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption. Seventy-five percent of all cancerous mouth and throat tumors are related to tobacco and alcohol use. Staying healthy requires good preventive maintenance. Part of this maintenance includes proper oral hygiene, wearing well-fitted dentures, eliminating use of tobacco and alcohol related products and adhering to a well-balanced, nutritious diet, which includes fruits, as well as vitamins C and E
Tobacco is one of the most well known substances that causes multiple types of cancers. Most Head & Neck cancers are caused due to consumption of tobacco related products. Alcohol consumption in large amounts also causes cancer, though not as potently as tobacco. Individuals who use both tobacco and alcohol, have a many fold (50-100 times more) risk of developing cancer than those who do not.
Many cancers develop due to constant irritation such as a sharp tooth or denture or irritation due to chronic infection or food habits, which can lead to ulceration and subsequent cancer formation. It can be hereditary in some cases.
Stopping the tobacco consumption can give benefits against any new development of cancer. Unfortunately, once the cancerous process has started, quitting tobacco will not reverse it and it will appear within its natural time course.
There is no scientific proof that a biopsy causes the cancer to grow faster. It is a myth that after biopsy the cancer spreads. This is not true. Unless a biopsy is done the doctor can’t start the treatment of cancer. Only after the diagnosis is established with the help of a biopsy, the doctor can start the treatment.
Once the cancer is suspected, Biopsy is the first step in the diagnostic process. It can never be avoided in view to start the perfect treatment.
The need for radiotherapy and chemotherapy largely depends on the disease/cancer type. In certain cases they are used primarily for treatment like cancers of throat, voice box, food pipe. However, in others they are used if needed after surgery. The main reason to use it after surgery is to control and reduce the chance of recurrence. Your doctor will guide you regarding its need which is based on the final biopsy report of the cancer surgery.
Nutrition: Your doctor, along with a dietitian, will give you a plan for nutrition support. The form and consistency of the diet may be guided by your doctor. A balanced diet is very important for faster recovery. Wound Care: Regular baths as per your doctor's advice and maintaining oral hygiene. Physical Activity: The Head & Neck Physiotherapy for mouth, neck, and shoulder following surgery is required to regain the strength of muscles.
Unfortunately, there cannot be such thing as a 100% guarantee when it comes to cancer. The chances of the cancer returning in the short term or long term primarily depend upon the stage at initial diagnosis, compliance to the treatment and cessation of tobacco related products.