Treatment for Head and Neck Cancer
Excessive consumption of tobacco and / or alcohol is found to be one of main causes of head and neck cancer. Others include smoking cigar, chewing beetel-nut, following a diet that is low in vitamin E and presence of HPV or EBV. A patient suffering from head and neck cancer often complains of neck pain, bad breath, sore tongue, bleeding from mouth, difficulty in swallowing food, earache, hoarse voice and enlarged glands in the neck. Its diagnosis includes endoscopy, biopsy, CT scan, MRI scan, PET scan, head and neck x-ray and other blood and laboratory tests. Methods of treatment for head and neck cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy.
Surgery for Head and Neck Cancer Treatment
Surgery is a common method of treatment for head and neck cancer. It is done in the similar way as it is done in case of treatment for throat cancer. The cancer along with a part of the jaw, palate, tongue and pharynx is removed to avoid the reoccurrence of the cancerous cells in the body of the patient. A reconstruction surgery, where all the removed parts are replaced, is done so that the patient can eat, chew, swallow and speak normally. In some cases CO2 laser or Transoral laser is done where the cancer is removed from the voice box without any cuts or incisions.
Radiation Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer Treatment
Radiation therapy is given when the patient is not in the condition to undergo surgery. There are three different ways in which radiation therapy is given to the patient suffering from head and neck cancer. These are intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), 3D conformal radiation therapy (3DCRT) and brachytherapy. Brachytherapy is given in the similar way as it is given during the radiation treatment for breast cancer. In IMRT, computer controlled linear accelerators are used to pass on precise radiations on the area where the cancerous cells are present. In 3DCRT, each beam of radiation is shaped as per the size and shape of the target cell, so that the targeted cancerous cells are killed effectively. In brachytherapy, the radiations are given in the form of radiation seeds which are placed near the affected area, inside the body of the patient.
Chemotherapy for Head and Neck Cancer Treatment
Chemotherapy is a standard method of treatment for head and neck cancer. Similar to oral chemotherapy, it is given intravenously so that the drugs do not react with the healthy cells present in the mouth and throat and cause side effects. It can be given in combination with surgery or radiation therapy. Generally, head and neck cancer chemotherapy is given in the combination of carboplatin and taxol like Docetaxel, Amifostine and other drugs.
Targeted Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer Treatment
Targeted therapy is given when the epidermal growth factor receptor protein is found to be responsible for enhancing the growth of the cancerous cells in the patient’s body. It involves the use of monoclonal antibodies to kill the cancerous cells present in a particular area. These antibodies do not harm the other healthy cells present in the human body. The commonly given drugs are erbitux, bevacizumab, reovirus and cetuximab.
These were the standard methods of treatment for head and neck cancer. Some other methods of treatment for cancer are also being researched for to help treat head and neck cancer effectively.
Please Note: The drugs / medications mentioned in this article should be taken only on the prescription of a doctor.