Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer includes cancer in the nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, salivary glands, and larynx. Men are more likely to develop head and neck cancer, and smoking, alcohol, and infection by HPV and EBV are known risk factors.
Persistent wounds or sores in the mucosal membrane, hoarseness, discomfort or pain when swallowing, neck mass, unilateral nasal congestion, and bloody mucus are common symptoms of head and neck cancer. These symptoms are also common in other harmless conditions, such as infections, but when they last for more than three weeks, it is highly recommended to see a doctor.
Most tumors in the head or neck are discovered in a medical exam. The examination usually involves an MRI and/or CT scan and tumor biopsy, which sometimes occur under anesthesia. At Karolinska University Hospital, team collaboration around the patient is crucial during the investigation, treatment decisions, and treatment. Specialists such as head and neck, plastic and dental surgeons work together with oncologists in order to offer each patient optimal treatment. All patients are provided with a contact nurse available from diagnosis to follow-up. The contact nurse is the first point of contact and is responsible for creating an individual care plan together with the patient. Our goal is to diagnose and treat each patient individually.
Surgery and radiation therapy alone or combined are the main treatment options for head and neck cancer. Sometimes, chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy are added to the treatment in more advanced cases. The treatment is based on a multidisciplinary decision where tumor size, tumor localization, and each patient’s overall health are taken into consideration.
Head and neck cancer treatment includes side effects, such as being unable to eat and swallow. At Karolinska University hospital, we have a team-based approach to leading the patient through the treatment, from the start of treatment to follow-up. The patient meets dental hygienists, physiotherapists, speech therapists, and dieticians, all working together to ensure the best possible outcome.