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What are Head and Neck Cancers?
Cancer of any type occurs when abnormal cells grow in an inappropriate and aggressive fashion. Cancer is typically named after the site in which it originates. Head and neck cancers are mostly found in the mouth or throat with potential spread to the neck and distant sites.
What are the symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer?
Your primary care physician, dentist, or oral surgeon may detect the early signs of head and neck cancer. Symptoms include:
- a lump in the neck
- change in the voice
- a growth in the mouth
- blood in the saliva
- difficulty swallowing
- changes in the skin
- persistent earache
How is Head and Neck Cancer Diagnosed?
There are several imaging techniques used to diagnose head and neck cancer. One or several of the following tests may be used:
- Computed Tomography: Uses special x-rays to obtain many images from different angles to determine a cancer growth on the tissues or organs.
- MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses powerful magnets and radio waves to determine if a tissue is cancerous.
- Ultrasound: Exposes the body to high-frequency sound waves to produce pictures of the inside of the body in real-time, which can show the structure of the body’s internal organs.
- PET: Positron Emission Tomography produces images based on cellular activity.
- Fine Needle Aspiration: Obtains cells for microscopic analysis and helps to diagnose whether or not a mass is cancerous.
Additional tests may be used to determine the diagnosis and staging of cancers of the head and neck.