What is head and neck cancer and the prevalence?

The sentinel node technique, which makes it possible to avoid performing cervical surgery in almost 8 out of 10 patients with head and neck cancer, has begun to be used in a protocol manner in hospitals.

Under the name ‘ head and neck carcinomas ‘, many tumors of different incidence, clinical, evolution, treatment, and prognosis are grouped. Exist:

  • Tumors of the paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity.
  • Cancer of the nasopharynx, oropharynx (tonsil, soft palate, and base of the tongue), hypopharynx, larynx (supraglottis, glottis, and subglottis).
  • Cancer of the oral cavity ( oral mucosa, gums, hard palate, movable tongue, and floor of the mouth), lip, and salivary glands.
  • The upper aerodigestive tract, skin tumors, central nervous system tumors, and thyroid tumors are excluded.

It is an extraordinarily complex anatomical region, so the agreement has been reached to standardize the different levels of the neck to unify treatment criteria. They are divided from level I to level VI, and the limits are the base of the skull, clavicle, and anterior border of the trapezius muscle.

Due to their location and consequences, these are tumors with a significant impact on patients’ quality of life and can affect diet, speech, breathing, and physical appearance.

The median survival of patients with a head and neck tumor is 60% at five years. However, if they are detected in the initial stages, the disease’s percentage of control is very high, with survival figures of more than 90% at five years. 

Suspected symptoms of head and neck cancer

The warning signs that can make someone suspect that they need to see a specialist, especially if they are a smoker or drink alcohol frequently, are:

  • Present a dysphonia (alteration of the voice).
  • Having a wound in the mouth that does not heal in 15 days.
  • Pain in the pharynx radiates to the ear.
  • Persistent discomfort when swallowing or the continuous sensation of a foreign body in the throat

Treatment usually requires surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Its approach and recovery approach must be multidisciplinary, involving speech therapists, nutritionists, endocrinologists, pathologists, psycho-oncologists, and specialized nursing.

Head and neck cancer prevalence

Taken together, head and neck cancers are the fifth most common neoplasm and the third most prevalent tumor, second only to breast and colon cancer. It accounts for 7% of all new cancer cases. The most frequent histology (80%) is epidermoid, and lymphomas, sarcomas, and melanomas can also be found.

Head and neck cancer is one of the tumors whose incidence grows due to increasing snuff and alcohol consumption and the Virus of the Human Papilloma. Worldwide, more than half a million head and neck cancer (oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, and larynx ) are counted per year, making it the seventh place in the frequency of the total of malignant tumors. It is estimated that in 2020, the population’s growth and aging will lead to a doubling of the numbers, with more than a million new cases and more than half a million deaths each year.

The sex distribution is four to one for males. It is common cancer among men over 55 years of age, with the average age of onset being 60 years (lower if it is of the nasopharynx and salivary glands).

Experts predict that in a few years in men, the risk of the appearance of this type of tumor will decrease by 2%. In women, it will increase (24% in the oral cavity, 37% in the larynx, and 67% in other locations of mouth and neck), which respond to changes in social habits of tobacco and alcohol consumption.