Head & Neck Cancer

Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer refers to a group of cancers that develop in the tissues of The head and neck region. These include the mouth, throat, nose, sinuses, voice box, and salivary glands.

It can manifest as various types, such as oral, throat, or laryngeal cancer, and typically requires a multidisciplinary approach for diagnosis and treatment.

Early detection and timely intervention are crucial for better outcomes. Treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies, depending on the cancer’s type and stage.

Regular check-ups and screenings can aid in early detection and improved prognosis.

History & Clinical Examination :

•  Clinical Staging
•  Assessment of Performance and Nutrition Status.
•  Investigations for histological diagnosis- Biopsy / FNAC / Slide Review

Goals of Treatment:

Stage I-IVA : Curative
Stage IV B-C : Palliative

Treatment Modalities:

Surgery and radiotherapy are the definitive therapies in the treatment of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas. Chemotherapy by itself is not a definitive treatment.


•  It is used as a single modality in early disease (stage I & II).
•  It is combined with post-operative adjuvant radiotherapy in advanced disease (stage III & IV).
•  Wide excision of tumor in all dimensions with adequate margins and appropriate neck dissection is essential in local-regional control of disease.



It is usually used in combination with radiotherapy (sequential or concurrent. Current evidence favors concurrent administration of chemo radiotherapy).

It has a role in organ/ voice preservation (in laryngeal / hypo pharyngeal cancers) and in oropharyngeal cancers. In select patients chemotherapy can be used for palliating symptoms.


Radiation Therapy

•  External beam radiotherapy and / or brachytherapy are used either as single modality or as a part of multi-modality treatment.

•  Three Dimensional Conformal Radiotherapy (3-DCRT) Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) or Image Guided radiotherapy ( IGRT) are useful advances in radiotherapy techniques that can be used in primary treatment with radiation therapy . These techniques allow for better sparing of adjacent critical structures like the spinal cord, parotids thereby enabling better tumor coverage and may help in dose escalation to the target volume.

General guidelines for selecting a treatment modality:

•  Stage I / II disease – Single modality (Surgery or RT)
•  Stage III & IV disease – Combined modality
Surgery + Radiotherapy
Chemotherapy + radiotherapy

Surgery is preferred over radiotherapy as a single modality in

•  Sites where surgery is not morbid (cosmetically and functionally)
•  Lesions involving or close to bone – to prevent radionecrosis.
•  Young patients – possibility of a subsequent second primary
•  Sub mucous fibrosis

RT is preferred over surgery as a single modality, where

•  Severe impairment of function / cosmesis with surgery, e.g. base tongue, glottis.
•  Surgery is technically difficult with high morbidity and poor results e.g. nasopharyngeal carcinoma.
•  Patient refuses surgery / high risk of surgery

Criteria of Unresectability :

Primary disease: Adequate surgical clearance is not achievable

•  Extensive InfraTemporal Fossa involvement
•  Extensive involvement of base skull.
•  Extensive soft tissue disease: skin edema/ ulceration.

Ready to take action against Head and Neck Cancer?

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