Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancers afflict more than 50,000 people in the United States each year, and many of these cancers are difficult to diagnose. Dr. Wallace is an expert in the diagnosis and management of tumors involving the head and neck region, and he works to provide individual care to patients dealing with cancers such as:

  • Laryngeal Cancer

  • Tongue Cancer

  • Salivary Gland Malignancies

  • Tonsillar Cancer

  • Unknown Primary Cancers of the Head and Neck

Cancers of the head and neck affect the mouth, throat, nasal passages, sinuses, larynx, thyroid and salivary glands – in addition to the face, scalp and neck. Head and neck tumors most commonly arise from the cells that line the throat and mouth area known as squamous cells. Risk factors for these types of cancers include tobacco and alcohol use, as well as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

Symptoms

Most head and neck cancers are preventable, and many can be treated successfully if detected early on. Symptoms of cancerous lumps or growths in the head and neck region may include:

  • Lump or sore that does not heal

  • Persistent sore throat

  • Pain or difficulty chewing and swallowing

  • Red or white patches or lesions in the mouth

  • Hoarseness or change in voice

  • Pain in the ear when swallowing

  • Frequent nose bleeds or unusual nasal discharge

Not all patients show signs of illness – and some of these symptoms may indicate a different condition. For patients concerned about the appearance of one or more of these symptoms, Dr. Wallace can perform a thorough examination to help determine a diagnosis.

Diagnosis

To diagnose a head or neck cancer, Dr. Wallace will start with a physical exam, taking into account the patient’s complete medical history, symptoms and risk factors. Screening tests are sometimes also necessary, depending on the type of cancer that is suspected. They can include a blood or urine test, endoscopy, biopsy, X-ray, or other imaging scan.

If a mass or lesion is located, an ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration (FNA) can be performed. This is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that involves inserting a fine, hollow needle into the mass, using ultrasound scanners to guide the needle to the desired spot, and suctioning out cells in order to test them for cancer.

Treatment

Dr. Wallace works closely with patients to develop a treatment plan that best suits their needs. A course of action can vary depending on a patient’s age and general health, the type of cancer that they have, and how far the cancer has progressed. The most common treatment options for head and neck cancers include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.