Approximately $3.6 billion is spent in the US annually for treating head and neck cancers. These cancers account for 3 to 5 percent of all cancers in the United States. And out of 55,070 people, 14, 850 women have been estimated to develop this cancer, and 3,400 women are expected to die from the ailment this year.
Head and neck tumors begin after female victims experience abnormal growth of cells. This is when cells multiply out of control, and form a tumor in part of the neck or head. With the growth, the tumor can form a sore, a lump, or an abnormal patch of discolored tissue. Left untreated, the tumor can invade and destruct nearby tissues and bones. And it can spread to lymph nodes in other parts of the body.
Apart from the formation of a lump, other symptoms are revealed after direct pressure is applied by the tumor on adjacent structures. Early symptoms should be diagnosed because they can also be caused by other, non-cancerous conditions. Head and neck cancers may be malignant or benign in nature, and the most common malignant type is squamous cell cancer.
Many of the tumors may not be able to differentiate between where the brain ends and where the skull base starts, so they could infiltrate the skull base, invading and affecting the brain function in the process.
The usual way to diagnose neck and head tumors is to conduct radiographic image tests like CT scans, MRI and X-Rays. PET scans may also be recommended in some cases. In case the tumor spreads to other areas of the body, tests including chest x-rays and ultrasound.
A biopsy will be taken from the suspected tumor to determine whether the problem is benign or malignant. This involves cutting a small piece of tumor, either on an outpatient basis or in the operating room depending on the location of tumor.
According to Skull Base Institute, surgery is the mainstay treatment for most neck and head tumors. Surgery alone can treat most benign tumors, while treatment options for malignant tumors include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery, or a combination of one of these treatments. In a few cases, surgery can be combined with craniofacial reconstructive surgery for obtaining a better outcome.
Robotic surgery may be used by some surgeons, whereby the robot performs very delicate surgery in areas that are hard-to-reach (areas that the surgeon’s hand can’t access). Such procedures shorten the time to perform complex operations in the neck and head area and reduce complications associated to surgery.
Rehabilitation therapy is also a common treatment plan for patients with neck and head cancer. After evaluation of the female patient’s individual needs, functional and physical rehabilitation provides a means to improve function and mobility after treatment.
Another option is radiation therapy, which may involve Gamma Knife, brachytherapy or external beam treatment. It is often conducted simultaneously with surgical treatment, but may be combined with chemotherapy in some inoperable cases. The multi-modal approaches can preserve the ability of the patient to speak and swallow even in female patients who are at an advanced stage of the disease.
If the tumor is detected at an early stage and does not spread to the lymph nodes, a majority of cases can be cured without surgical intervention.