Head & Neck
Eastern Carolina Ear, Nose & Throat - Head
and Neck Surgery provides comprehensive care for
patients with cancer of the face, oral cavity,
throat, neck, and ear.
About Head and Neck Cancer
Some of the common symptoms of cancer of the
head and neck include persistent pain in the throat,
pain or difficulty with swallowing, persistent
hoarseness and bleeding in the mouth or throat.
Approximately half of all cancers in the head
and neck originate in the oral cavity. The most
common causes for cancer of the head and neck
are smoking and heavy alcohol intake. Head and
neck cancers are one of a very small number of
cancers that are very strongly related to causative
factors (smoking and alcohol). In fact, it is
quite rare to see head and neck cancer in patients
who do not smoke or drink excessive alcohol; however,
occasionally this does occur.
What Steps are Needed?
The first step of head and neck cancer is establishing
a diagnosis. A lesion which is suspected to be
a possible cancer is biopsied. This involves sending
a piece of the tissue to the laboratory for examination.
Occasionally, this can be performed in the office
and sometimes this must be performed in the Operating
Room under anesthesia in order to see and evaluate
the area fully. Once a diagnosis is established,
then the stage of the lesion is determined. The
staging ranges from Stage I - Stage IV. Stage
I represents the least extensive disease and Stage
IV the more extensive. The staging is used to
determine what options for treatment are available
for the patient. The various treatment options
include surgery, radiation and sometimes chemotherapy.
Each of these treatments may be used alone or
in combintation depending on the exact type of
cancer and the stage.
The Tumor Board
A multi-disciplinary tumor board for head and
neck cancer meets on a regular basis to bring
together the head and neck surgeons (Eastern Carolina
E-N-T) and doctors who provide chemotherapy and
radiation. By bringing all these physicians together
on a regular basis, treatment options for each
patient are discussed in order to offer all potential
options to each patient and to identify the best
potential options for each patient as well. The
results of these confidential discussions are
then brought back to the patient to allow the
patient and head and neck surgeon to work together
to choose a treatment plan.
Importance of Follow Up
After treatment for head and neck cancer, we believe
very strongly in regular follow- up. This is necessary
in order to watch for any recurrence of the tumor
and to identify it early.