The cancers of the head and neck include the cancer of the mouth, nose, tongue, sinuses, throat parts, middle ear, or salivary glands.
The symptoms of this cancer depend on whether you have cancer on your neck or head.
Here are some of the most common symptoms in head and neck cancer patients:
- Sore throat
- Nose bleed
- Pain or discomfort in the mouth
- Stubborn ulcer in the mouth
- Swollen cheek
- Swollen jawbone
- Pain in the back part of the nose
- Swelling surrounding eyes
- Breathing problems
- Bleeding through mouth
- Loud breathing
- Trouble to chew or swallow
If one or more symptoms match with you, see a doctor and find out if you have cancers in the head or neck.
As usual, your doctor will get your history and note the current condition. You’ll be asked to get some tests done too.
Your doctor will run a regular physical examination/blood and urine test. The doctor will inspect your neck, cheeks, lips, and gums for any lumps during this. They’ll also check your throat, nose, mouth, and tongue to check any abnormalities.
Blood and urine test results also help determine if there are cancer properties present in your body.
Other tests include endoscopy, biopsy, biomarker tumour testing, barium swallow/x-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, PET scan, bone scan, and MRI.
All these tests will bring out crucial information that helps the doctor identify if cancer has spread and reached the bones, the condition of the organs and tissues in your body, the tumour’s location, and many more details.
With the help of these tests and results, the doctor can plan your treatment with an objective approach.
The diagnosis will tell if your condition calls for surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or combined treatment.
The doctor will also consider which stage the cancer is, the tumour’s location, the patient’s age, and the current health condition. Discuss your doubts with the doctor before deciding on the approach.
The unusual growth of the thyroid glands is called a goiter. There’s a chance this condition is temporary and will go away without any treatment, but this can also signify a significant thyroid issue.
Several things can give you a swollen thyroid, and that leads to different kinds of goiters like:
- Simple goiter. This condition occurs when your thyroid glands can’t produce enough hormones, so your thyroid becomes bigger to compensate for the lack of hormone
- Endemic goiters. If your regular diet doesn’t provide you with enough iodine, you’ll end up with endemic goiters or colloid goiters
- Sporadic goiters. There’s no known reason why it happens. However, there are some medical conditions or drugs that can cause such goiters
- Multinodular goiters. If the nodules in your thyroid start growing, you’ll get these goiters
Some other factors like your age can pose risks too.
If you’re older than 40, pregnant, have a history of autoimmune diseases, take medications like lithium, are exposed to radiation, or live in an iron-deficient area, the chance is you’ll develop goiters sooner or later.
The symptoms of goiters are:
- Swollen neck veins
- Breathing problems
- Swollen neck’s frontside
- Feeling tight in the throat
Your doctor can simply diagnose your next and examine you. But they might order further tests to find out the cause accurately. You might have to get an ultrasound, biopsy, thyroid scan, an MRI, or a CT scan.
The doctor will plan treatment according to the size of your thyroid glands, symptoms you’re experiencing, or the cause behind goiters.
Your doctor might not recommend any treatment if the goiter is small and not interfering with your daily life. But they’ll keep checking the goiter for any changes that need attention.
You’ll be prescribed certain medications to treat your thyroid hormones.
The doctor might also approach your condition with radioactive iodine treatment to help your overactive thyroid glands.
A biopsy is used to collect tissues or cells for samples to be tested in labs, and this approach is often made to eliminate cancer.
If you have large goiters, the doctor might find surgery your suitable treatment. You might even have to consume thyroid hormone replacement forever, depending on how much of your thyroid gland was removed.
Small glands that produce white blood cells to fight infections are known as lymph nodes.
Lymph node biopsies are done to detect if you have any kind of lymph nose disease. These biopsies can diagnose if you have cancer or your cancer has spread to some other area. They are also performed to check if there’s any infection present in your body, like swollen lymph nodes.
Biopsies for lymph nodes can be done in the doctor’s office, hospital, or other medical facilities. The best part is that lymph node biopsies are an outpatient approach meaning you can leave the hospital once the biopsies are complete.
Your doctor will decide what to do with your lymph nodes. They’ll either get the swollen lymph node’s tissue sample or take the entire lymph node out and send them to a lab.
The lymph node biopsies can be done using three methods:
- Needle biopsy where the doctor takes a little sample of the lymph node cells
- Open biopsy is done to eliminate the entire lymph node or a portion of the lymph nodes
- Sentinel biopsy is performed to locate the cancer spreading area
You might experience some tenderness and pain after the biopsy. You’re recommended to keep the biopsy site dry and clean all the time. After the biopsy is done, you might need to go without showering or bathing for a few days.
Be attentive to your physical condition as much as possible. Don’t forget to keep the biopsy site in check. And if you see anything wrong or any unusual symptoms like infections( chills, blood on the biopsy site, swelling, discharge on the biopsy site, excruciating pain, or fever), contact your doctor and get yourself examined.
Discuss your doubts with the doctor and clear any confusion you might have regarding the after-effects / cautions of the biopsy. Ask him if you need to get any more tests done or maintain any specific routine to be on the safer side.
Neck lumps are also known as neck masses. They can either be small or visibly small. However, they’re mostly benign and harmless.
People mostly get neck lumps due to enlarged lymph nodes. Lymph nodes tend to get enlarged since they try to fight against any infection. There are several more facts that cause neck lumps, they are:
- Skin irritation
- Allergic reaction
- Muscle knots
While neck lumps are nothing to worry about, they can sometimes be a symptom of a more severe health issue.
Soft neck lumps tend to be harmless and go away with time. The type you should be worried about is the hard and craggy ones.
To make sure that you’re not in danger, the best thing to do is to visit a doctor and get examined. If you see any of the following symptoms, get an appointment as soon as you can:
- Sweating at night
- Weight loss
- Continuously feeling tired or exhausted
- Sore voice or hoarseness that lasts longer than three weeks
- Trouble to breathe
- Unexplainable bruises
- Blood in the cough
Your doctor will get your history and order you to get some tests done. The doctor will also conduct a physical exam on you which will include examining your ears, neck, scalp, mouth, eyes, throat, and nose.
Some tests can include the following for proper diagnosis:
- X-rays for the sinus
- Chest x-ray to check the lungs, lymph nodes, and trachea
- Neck ultrasound to determine any issues in your neck
- Head and neck’s MRI
Besides these tests, your doctor might check for any kind of abnormality in your skin.
Since treatment depends on the condition of the lumps, to treat your neck lumps, your doctor will have to determine the underlying cause. For example, to treat neck lumps caused by bacterial infections the doctor will prescribe antibiotics to you.
But the treatments can range from surgery to chemotherapy, depending on the severity.
Parathyroid disorders interfere with the four small parathyroid glands in our neck, which helps keep the balance of calcium in our body. People suffering from parathyroid disorders tend to have unusual calcium levels in their blood that causes kidney stones, weakness, brittle bones, fatigue, and many more problems.
There are several kinds of parathyroid disorders. They are:
- Hyperparathyroidism; means there’s excessive PTH in your blood that causes the calcium level to increase, and this damages your organs / bones
- Hypoparathyroidism; meaning your blood lacks PTH, and this reduces your blood’s calcium and increases the phosphorus
- Hypercalcemia; the presence of excessive calcium in the blood that can cause a hypercalcemic crisis like organ failure, coma, or even death
- Hypocalcemia; not enough calcium in your blood, and this can cause tetany or seizures
The reason you might get parathyroid disorders is many. Some of them are:
- Endocrine disorders
- Harmless tumor
- Kidney problems
- Genetic conditions
- Consuming some triggering medications
- Enlarged parathyroid glands
- Cancer ( rarely)
- Lack of Vit-D
Your parathyroid conditions might not show any symptoms in the early stage. However, the symptoms are different in each person.
Here are some of the common symptoms of parathyroid conditions:
- Feeling weak
- Getting headaches
- Mood swings
- Spams and twitching in hands, feet, or face
- Stomach pain
If you have any of the above symptoms, get an appointment with your doctor and get diagnosed.
Your doctor will check your calcium and PTH levels in your blood to see if you have a parathyroid disorder.
If the results are positive, your doctor will run some more tests to evaluate how bad your condition is.
These tests can include bone densitometry, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, and 25-hydroxy-vitamin D blood test.
The results will tell your doctor what’s happening inside your body and help them decide the perfect treatment for you.
The ultimate goal for parathyroid treatment is to restore your blood’s calcium and phosphorus balance. The treatment might include dietary modification, lifestyle changes, medications, or something else that can help you get better soon.
However, if your condition involves a tumour, the doctor will discuss the possible and slightly invasive procedures or any other surgery they can perform.
The salivary glands are smaller glands sitting around the inner side of the cheeks, lips, and mouth. These glands make saliva to protect your mouth and help in your digestion.
Several facts affect your salivary glands, ranging from cancerous tumours to Sjögren’s syndrome. Some salivary conditions will go away on their own, some will need antibiotics, and some might even need an effective treatment like surgery.
If you have issues with your salivary gland, you might feel your mouth drying out, get a fever, feel pain, or even experience swelling of the salivary glands.
Some of the common salivary gland issues include:
- Sialoliths or salivary stones; these stones tend to block saliva flow, cause pain / swelling glands, and if the condition remains unblocked, it might even cause infection
- Sialadenitis or commonly known as salivary gland infection; causes a very painful lump in your glands along with unpleasant pus draining into your mouth
- Sjögren’s syndrome occurs when the white blood cells in our blood target healthy cells in glands like salivary, sweat, and oil
- Viral infections like flu, mumps, and many more are the cause behind the swollen salivary glands
- Cysts occur when your salivary glands get blocked due to injury, infection, salivary glands, or tumors
- Benign or malignant, your salivary glands can end up having either
While some of your symptoms may show obvious signs of salivary conditions, your doctor will ask you to get diagnosed to determine the validity of the condition.
The required tests can include a dental x-ray, CT scan, MRI, and biopsy.
These tests will help the doctor decide their treatment approach according to your condition.
Since the treatment varies depending on the cause of the salivary gland problems, identifying your cause is one of the most critical parts of the treatment.
To address the stones or duct blockages, your doctor will start by removing the stones, applying warm compresses, or using sour candies to enhance saliva flow. However, if the standard approach doesn’t improve your condition, you might need surgery to get rid of the block of the damaged gland. Cysts are also removable using surgery.
Radiation is also used to stop some tumours from recurring. While some other tumours can be treated using chemotherapy.
Any other issues can be treated with the help of medications like antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.
Taking care of your teeth is a crucial step to keep your salivary glands happy and healthy.
The unusual overgrowth of the thyroid gland tissues is called thyroid nodules. They’re made of solid tissues / loaded with fluids or blood, and they’re mostly harmless. However, some cases can be different, and the thyroid nodules can be cancerous.
You can either have many nodules or just only one. Thyroid nodules are more common in women than men.
Interestingly, most people don’t even know that they have thyroid nodules unless their doctor finds it first. But the only way you can see it is if the thyroid nodules become large enough to be seen with naked eyes or when the large nodules make your breathing / swallowing difficult.
While most thyroid nodules don’t show noticeable symptoms, some of them can be seen as a swollen neck base or can be felt.
They sometimes tend to pressurize your windpipe and make breathing or swallowing hard.
Sometimes your thyroid nodules will produce too much thyroxine – a thyroid gland hormone. They can often show symptoms of hyperthyroidism ( thyroid hormone overproduction ) like rapid heart rate, weight loss, anxiety, hair loss, moodiness, or diarrhea.
The risk facts that cause thyroid nodules to develop are:
- Age. as you get older, the risk of developing thyroid nodules increases equally
- If any of the family members have had thyroid nodules or thyroid-related health issues, you’re most likely to develop it too
- Your gender. Females tend to get thyroid nodules more than men
- If your head and neck have ever been exposed to radiation, you’ve got a higher chance to develop thyroid nodules
Your doctor gets to decide if you have thyroid nodules for sure or not. They’ll examine you thoroughly and check your neck to feel the presence of thyroid nodules.
If you have developed thyroid nodules, your treatment will depend on the kind your thyroid nodules are.
Your doctor can go for the following approaches to treat your nodules:
- Watchful waiting. If your thyroid nodules are harmless, your doctor will recommend you to leave them as they are and wait to see the changes in them
- Radioactive iodine. If you have hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules, your doctor will treat you using radioactive iodine
- Surgery. To address the cancerous nodules, your doctor will decide to operate on them and take them out