What causes head and neck cancers?

Many Causes. Tobacco smoking and chewing is the largest cause of head/neck cancers. A significant number are caused by viruses (epstein barr virus, human pailoma virus); alcohol and less commonly hereitary factors also play a role.
Tobacco usage. Head and neck cancers include cancers involving the throat, tongue, mouth, nose , and sinuses. Cigarette smoking is closely associated with throat cancer and chewing tobacco causes cancer in the mouth. Nasal and sinus cancers happen more often because of genetic predisposition rather than some external irritant like smoke.

Related Questions

Is HPV a cause of head and neck cancer and does this mean it is an std?

Yes. Hpv is one of the factor in oropharyngeal cancers, alcohol and tobacco being more important. It is a sexually transmitted disease but oral infections is acquired usually through kissing, which is generally not considered sexual activity. Read more...
Yes & no. Certain head/neck cancers (oropharynx, tonsil, tongue) are associated with hpv infections in ~40% cases; typically in young non-smokers & non-drinkers and also young women. These cancers respond better to standard treatments. Oral sex is a risk for hpv infection in the oral areas but typically an std refers to infections such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, etc. Read more...
Possibly. Interesting question hpv is now becoming an increasing risk for head and neck cancer. Most people are exposed to it but only a small percentage develop oropharyngeal cancer. That is why it is recommended to give young boys the vaccine. It is in some way an std yes. Unclear if oral sex is the cause ! Read more...
Yes to both. Hpv has been increasingly implicated in head and neck squamous cell cancer (usually tonsil, base of tongue) and is transmitted through sexual contact. It also may be trasmitted through other froms of contact making it not exclusively a std. Read more...

How are head and neck cancers diagnosed?

Detailed workup. Typically symptoms or signs raise suspicion (neck lump, oral ulcer, hoarseness, swallowing difficulty, local pain, etc.). A careful exam by an ENT doctor (can include exam by a scope such as laryngoscopy) followed by biopsies of concerned areas is a start. Ct or MRI scans are also usually done. Diagnosis is confirmed upon pathology review. Read more...
History, phys, scans. Typically a patient will present to their doctors with a history of a mass or growth in their head or neck they noticed or that someone else has noticed. Physical exams will confirm this finding and ct scans and biopsies will usually then be ordered to confirm the diagnosis of the head and neck cancer. Read more...

Are head and neck cancers always terminal?

Prognosis H&N CA. Definitely not! there is obviously a wide range of cancer sites in this classification ranging from voice box, which has a 95% cure rate, to base of tongue, which can be very hard to cure. Cure rates will depend on the location as well as the size and the extent or stage of the cancer. Read more...
Head and neck cancer. Head and neck cancers span a wide range of sites and cancer types with several causes. Depending on the site and type of cancer, many people are cured or do quite well. Several details about the cancer will substratify it into one with a more or less favorable prognosis if you know more specifically what type of cancer and its location. Read more...

What are the warning signs of head and neck cancers?

Avoid tobacco & etoh. Early warning signs are - lump in the neck., change in the voice, painless growth in the mouth, bringing up blood, swallowing problems, changes in the skin, constant pain in or around the ear when you swallow can be a sign of infection or tumor growth in the throat. This is particularly serious if it is associated with difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness, or a lump in the neck. Check with ENT doc. Read more...
Common ones. Common signs can be a tip off for underlying head/neck cancer. A sore throat that gets worse despite antibiotics, a neck lump that keeps growing, voice hoarseness that get worse despite rest and therapy, or difficulty swallowing that gets worse are some common situations. General signs (major tiredness, unintentional weight loss) can happen. In pts with smoking & alcohol use the are more worrisome. Read more...

What is the likelihood of head and neck cancers at age 18?

Low, but... The common smoking-related cancers aren't going to appear in a teen, but there are several cancers of salivary-gland origin that are known to occur at your age. If you have an unexplained mass anywhere, please get it seen by a capable physician. Read more...

What are the major contributing factors for head and neck cancers?

Well known. Standard contributing factors include chronic smoking, regular/heavy alcohol use, tobacco chewing, poor oral and dental hygiene, betel nut chewing, hpv infection (viral). Read more...
Head & Neck Cancer . Many head and neck cancers are due to the presence of the human papilloma virus (hpv), chewing tobacco, excess alcohol use, smoking, and a myriad of poorly understood promoters and carcinogens. A good yearly exam by your dentist and a self awareness for lumps in the neck, white or red patches on the tongue, inner cheek, or palate can detect early lesions well in time for a complete cure. Read more...

How are head and neck cancers staged and what, exactly, does that mean?

Thoroughly. Staging refers to the process of finding the extent of cancer, that is, where the cancer has spread to. Typically, head and neck cancer stages are early, locally advanced or distant spread. The process involves detailed exams (using laryngoscopy too); scans (ct, MRI or pet) and sometimes multiple biopsies. Read more...
Standardized. There are several staging protocols, but the american joint commission on cancer staging (ajcc) is the biggest one in the United States. By standardizing exactly how a tumor is "staged" is based on the tumor location, size and extent of invasion, whether or not lymph nodes are affected, and if there is distant metastatic disease. These are put together to give a stage: used for treatment decisions. Read more...

Besides surgery, how else are head and neck cancers treated?

Chemo, Radiation. Besides surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are typically used. Radiation is used in both early as well advanced cancers while chemotherapy is used in advanced cancers and those cases where the cancer has recurred. Read more...
Combined treatment. Head and neck cancer patients are usually seen in a combined clinic with surgeons, radiation oncologist and medical oncologist. In most early cases, surgery may be adequate but in early throat cancer, radiation is preferred. In advanced cases, combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation may be required and the sequence is individualized. Read more...

What health professionals treat patients with head and neck cancers?

Many. Ear nose throat (ENT) doctors; surgical oncologists (cancer surgeons), plastic surgeons, radiation oncologists (treat with radiation); medical oncologist (treat with chemotherapy); speech therapists, nutritionists, physical therapists among others. Read more...
Many. Don't forget about pathologists: without a diagnosis you have nothing :). Read more...
Team work. It takes a team to treat and take care of head and neck patients. There are surgeons to do biopies or surgical removal, radiation and medical oncologist to give chemoradiation as primary or secondary treatment, speech therapist and nutritionist to support and rehab patients, nurses to monitor patients and last but not least pathologist to make diagnosis. Read more...