At Central Maine Healthcare, we’re committed to bringing the most effective treatments for this cancer to our communities in central Maine.
About Head and Neck Cancer
Each year, about 110,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with head and neck cancer, a group of cancers that starts in or near your mouth, throat, larynx, nose or sinuses. Most begin in the cells that line the surfaces of these areas. Head and neck cancer may also be called oral cavity cancer or oropharyngeal cancer.
There are five main types of the disease, collectively called head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), and named for the area they affect:
- Oral cavity: Lips, gums, inside lining of the cheeks and other areas inside of your mouth
- Pharynx (throat): Includes your tonsils, back of your tongue and your soft palate
- Larynx (voice box): Holds your vocal cords and your epiglottis, a flap of cartilage at the base of the tongue
- Nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses: Hollow area inside your nose and small spaces in the bones of your head around your nose
- Salivary glands: In the lower part of your mouth near your jawbone
Each of these types has its own set of cancer symptoms. Though head and neck cancers can affect anyone, major risk factors include heavy tobacco and alcohol use, as well as the human papillomavirus (HPV), a type of sexually transmitted disease.
Cancer can’t be prevented in all cases, but your risk of cancer can be reduced if you have a healthy lifestyle. Nearly 85 percent of all head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use, so don’t start smoking. If you already smoke, quit. Learn how by calling the Maine Tobacco Helpline at 1-800-207-1230.
Other things that increase your risk include:
- Exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease
- Drinking alcohol
- Exposure to sun without protection increases risk of lip cancer
- A diet that’s high in processed meat and low in fruit and vegetables
- Not treating pre-cancerous growths like leukoplakia or erythroplakia
The key to treating—and beating—cancer is to catch it early. But like many cancers, cancer of the head and neck may not produce signs or symptoms until it’s already grown and spread to other tissues, making it harder to treat. That’s why some doctors recommend that you examine the inside of your mouth in a mirror once a month. If you notice any white patches, sores, or lumps, see your doctor. This kind of self-exam is especially important if you smoke – or used to smoke – and routinely drink alcohol.
If you’re diagnosed with head or neck cancer, rest assured you have some of central Maine’s leading experts by your side. Our multi-skilled team will work closely with you to create a personalized cancer treatment plan. With the sophisticated Versa HD accelerator, our radiation oncologists can now target tumors with extreme precision, while protecting nearby healthy tissue and critical body structures. And you have access to promising new treatments like immunotherapy and the latest cancer clinical trials.
Throughout your journey, you’ll find a variety of cancer support services to meet your physical, emotional, spiritual and financial needs. That includes your very own nurse navigator to coordinate all of your care, answer any questions and provide extra comfort and support every step of the way.
The Central Maine Comprehensive Cancer Center features a dedicated team—including board-certified ear, nose and throat specialists, medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons, specialized nurses and other experts. Together, we provide care for the whole you, so you can focus on getting well.