We specialize in the diagnosis and management of head and neck cancers.
As many as 90 percent of head and neck cancers arise after prolonged exposure to specific factors. Use of tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco or snuff) and alcoholic beverages are closely linked with cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box and tongue.
Some of the common presenting features are
A lump in the neck
Cancers that begin in the head or neck usually spread to lymph nodes in the neck before they spread elsewhere. A lump in the neck that lasts more than two weeks should be seen by a physician as soon as possible. Of course, not all lumps are cancer. But a lump (or lumps) in the neck can be the first sign of cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box (larynx), thyroid gland, or of certain lymphomas or blood cancers. Such lumps are generally painless and continue to enlarge steadily.
Change in the voice
Most cancers in the larynx / voice box cause some change in voice. Any hoarseness or other voice change lasting more than two weeks should alert you to see your physician. We can examine your vocal cords easily and painlessly. While most voice changes are not caused by cancer, you shouldn’t take chances.
A growth in the mouth
Most cancers of the mouth or tongue cause a sore or swelling that doesn’t go away. These sores and swellings may be painless unless they become infected. Bleeding may occur, but often not until late in the disease. If an ulcer or swelling is accompanied by lumps in the neck, be very concerned.
Cancer of the throat or esophagus (swallowing tube) may make swallowing solid foods difficult. Sometimes liquids can also be troublesome. The food may “stick” at a certain point and then either go through to the stomach or come back up. If you have trouble almost every time you try to swallow something, you should seek attention.
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. These symptoms are best evaluated by an otolaryngologist.
What you should do
All of the symptoms and signs described here can also occur with no cancer present. In fact, many times complaints of this type will be due to some other condition. But you can’t tell without an examination so to be safe seek attention.