Posts for category: Otolaryngology
Cancer can grow anywhere in the body, even the head and neck. These cancers are twice as common among men and they are usually diagnosed in adults over 50 years old. The common types of head and neck cancer include:
- Oral cavity
- Oropharnygeal (in the throat or back of the mouth)
- Nasal cavity
- Paranasal sinus
- Laryngeal (in the voice box)
- Hypopharyngeal (behind or beside the voice box)
Most of the time people don’t find out that they have head and neck cancer until symptoms start to surface that warrant visiting the doctor. Sometimes a dentist may be able to pinpoint early changes during your routine dental cleanings; however, your doctor may send you to an otolaryngologist for a more comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis.
During your evaluation, an ENT doctor will ask you questions regarding your current health and any symptoms you are experiencing. From there, your doctor will determine the best tests to perform to detect head and neck cancer. These tests may include a physical examination of the head and neck, a CT or MRI scan, or a biopsy.
If you are diagnosed with head and neck cancer the first thing your doctor will want to do is determine what stage the cancer is (which simply means determining how far the cancer has spread). The stages let us know the extent of the cancer’s growth but also which organs have been affected or could soon be affected. Stages of cancer range from 0-4, with the lower stages indicating that the cancer hasn’t spread to other organs or isn’t spreading quickly.
Treating Head and Neck Cancer
Today, there are many treatment options for head and neck cancer and your doctor will be able to go through the different options to determine the right plan for you. The type of treatment or treatments you will receive will depend on the stage and location of your cancer.
Localized treatments such as surgery or radiation are used to treat only the cancer and do not affect the body as a whole, while systemic treatments such as chemo and targeted therapy drugs will affect the whole body. Systemic treatments are often used on patients with more advanced stages of cancer that have spread to other areas of the body.
Surgery may be recommended if the cancer isn’t in a difficult location in which to operate. Surgery can be performed to remove lymph nodes from the neck or to remove part or all of a structure such as the voice box or jawbone.
If you are noticing changes in your voice, an oral sore or lesion that doesn’t heal, or a mass in the head or neck region it’s a good idea to see your ear, nose, and throat doctor right away for a thorough examination. The sooner head and neck cancer is detected the better.
Also known as canker sores and ulcers, mouth sores usually result from bite injuries or allergic reactions. They can also be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Unlike cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HS1 and HS2) and develop on the lips and the skin around the mouth, non-Herpes related mouth sores can form on the gums, tongue, lips, the lining of the cheeks and throat. Canker sores are not contagious, and usually clear up on their own. They tend to be painful and can be treated with topical over the counter analgesics, mouthwashes and rinses. If mouth sores do not resolve on their own and last longer than three weeks, it may be necessary to seek treatment from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
Common Causes of Mouth Ulcers and Canker Sores
Accidental biting is the most common cause, along with friction from toothbrushing, orthodontics or dentures. Diet can also play a role, in the form of food allergies to anything from coffee, chocolate and highly acidic foods and citrus fruits. Deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals like folic acid, B12, iron, folate and zinc can also cause mouth ulcers. Sodium lauryl sulfate in toothpaste and oral bacteria like Helicobacter pylori (which is also responsible for stomach ulcers) can cause lesions in the mouth as well.
Lifestyle factors like smoking and elevated stress levels are another cause. Ulcers that persist for more than a few weeks, do not respond to self-care and over the counter treatments and are accompanied by additional symptoms like fever, excessive pain, swelling and difficulty eating and drinking, can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
Schedule an appointment with an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- swollen lymph nodes
- difficulty swallowing or speaking
Is an Underlying Medical Condition Causing My Mouth Sores?
Persistent and chronic mouth sores can sometimes be a symptom of immune deficiencies or inflammatory conditions like lupus, Celiac, Behcet's and Chron's Disease. Contact an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) for more information on treatment options and symptom relief.
- Hear muffled speech or sounds
- Have a problem understanding individual words
- Need people to speak more loudly or slowly
- Have to turn up the television or radio
- Withdraw from social events or conversations
- Protect your ears by wearing earplugs or earmuffs if you are in a loud workplace
- Have your hearing tested by an audiologist or ENT specialist. Current recommendations are to have your hearing tested at least every 10 years through age 50, and every three years after age 50.
- Protect your ears from damaging loud noises in your daily activities and recreation, especially listening to rock concerts, shooting guns or riding in loud vehicles.
- Take breaks from continuous loud noises.