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The Head and Neck Cancer Centre, London Bridge Hospital

What is Head and Neck Cancer?

Head and Neck Cancer consists of cancers affecting the mouth, larynx, nose, sinuses, thyroid glands and the skin. This diverse group of tumours of course have one thing in common, involving the many complex structures that make up the normal head and neck. This is why a multidisciplinary approach to Head and Neck Cancer Treatment is required, as only by pooling expertise can these cancers be treated optimally. Successful treatment will almost always involve the function of the delicate structures within the head and neck.

Types of Head and Neck Cancer:

Laryngeal Cancer affects the larynx and the adjacent structures at the back of the throat.

Lymphomas - these are tumours of the lymph nodes and may occur anywhere in the head and neck. A particular type of lymphoma presenting around the mouth and neck is the mucosal associated or MALT lymphoma. They usually present as a lump in the neck and diagnosis can sometimes be made by fine needle biopsy of the lump, however, a more extensive biopsy may be required to design treatment.

Lymphomas Treatment is usually through chemotherapy but radiotherapy and immunotherapy can also be used. The prognosis for those with lymphomas can be extremely good. We refer to our specialist haematological oncology colleagues to treat theses tumours. For further infomation visit: www.lymphomas.org.uk

Melanomas are the mole like tumours that may affect the skin of the head and neck, including the inside of the mouth. Melanomas cancers, although often small, may spread throughout the body early. Treatment is primarily surgical and may involve sentinel node biopsy. For further information visit: www.SkinCancer.org

Oral cancer may affect the tongue, the floor of the mouth, inside of the cheeks, gums, palate, tonsils and the back of the throat (pharynx).

Skin cancers may be relatively benign such as basal cell carcinoma which unless very extensive (as a result of neglect) is usually fairly easy to treat and cure. Squamous cell carcinomas require slightly more extensive treatment depending on their size. They are usually less prone to spread to other areas and lymph nodes than other squamous cancers. Treatment of these cancers is usually by excision and repair with local tissue.

Thyroid cancers - these are cancers of the thyroid gland, and may present in a number of ways including a lump in the neck and or hoarseness.

Cancers affecting the nasal cavities and sinuses often involve the mouth but may also come very close to the brain.