Head and Neck Cancer Breakthrough
Head and neck cancer constitutes cancer of the pharynx, larynx, salivary glands, oral (mouth), lymph nodes present in the upper part of the neck, nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses. Eye cancer, brain cancer, thyroid cancer, scalp cancer and cancer of bones present in the facial region do not come under the category of head and neck cancer.
Cancer in simple words can be defined as irrepressible multiplication and division of cells. These extra cells form tumors. Now, tumors are of two types- malignant tumors and benign tumors. Benign tumors do not cause any harm to the body. But it is not the same with malignant tumors. Malignant tumors are cancerous. These cancerous cells invade surrounding tissues and destroy them. This is termed as metastasis.
There are three primary treatments of cancers- radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery. Depending upon the stage of the cancer, treatments are given in combination. The determination of TNM test helps in diagnosing the stage of cancer. T stands for the size of primary cancer tumor, N indicates whether the cancer has spread towards the lymph nodes or not and M symbolizes metastasis i.e. how far the cancer has spread to other body parts. There are four phases of cancer. If the symptoms of cancer are detected early, the treatment is efficient and successful. The more you delay or ignore your cancer symptoms, the more complicated the treatment is. First stage of cancer can be cured easily and effectively. Second and third stage of cancer is where the cancer has spread to the lymph. Fourth stage of cancer is very difficult to treat but not impossible. Technology has made man achieve this feat.
Trans Oral Robotic Surgery (TORS):
In this breakthrough procedure, tumors are removed without visible scarring or disfigurement and preserving your vocal cords (ability to speak) and eat. The experiment was led by Dr. Ghanem from Henry Ford, Hospital in the United States of America. It was approved by the government in the month of January and since then many TORS operations were performed. It helps in removing both tumors; malignant and benign tumors present in the tongue, tonsils, mouth and parts of the throat. There are several benefits of this procedure. No visible scarring, less loss of blood, simple and less complicated procedure, results equal to the radiation therapy, reduces the probability of tracheotomy, reduces the chances of performing chemotherapy that has got few severe side-effects and this procedure requires you to stay in the hospital for a very short period of time. This procedure is extremely beneficial in the first stage of cancer as it cures it and there is no need to perform any other treatment.
Updation of chemotherapy:
It is observed that patients who receive chemotherapy along with radiation are at reduced risk of metastasis. Thus, they help in saving the organ from undergoing surgery of neck and head cancer. Chemotherapy when used in combination with radiation therapy is called as chemo-radiotherapy.
Radiation-the new age therapy:
The Yale head and neck cancer program has a especially dedicated team that works for updating radiation therapy. Here, external beam radiotherapy machines are used for better effective treatment. These machines produce linear or straight betatrons and accelerators that result in increased energy of x-rays and gamma rays. This therapy is called as Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). IMRT gives precise and effective treatment to the targeted part of the body without destroying the surrounding normal cells.
Changes in DNA in larynx and hypopharynx cancer:
It is observed that changes in the p53 tumor suppressor gene causes aggressiveness in many head and neck cancer cases. Tests are being conducted to detect alteration in the p53 gene that may help in early diagnosis of larynx and hypopharynx cancer which is a part of head and neck cancer. One must note that research is still being conducted on this topic and the test is not yet approved to be used in cancer diagnosis and routine cancer care of head and neck.
Head and neck cancer breakthrough that can cure all types of cancer is yet to be accomplished.