Head And Neck Cancer – III Treatment Prognosis


In the first two of the 3 part series on Head and Neck cancer, we documented its types, symptoms and treatment. We also weighed in on the diagnostic procedure and elaborated on oral cancer.

Head and Neck Cancer – Treatment Prognosis

Head and neck cancers, particularly laryngeal and oral cavity, if detected early,are easily curable. Success rates go as high as 50% more than the same in case of advanced stage cancer. In locally advanced cases, cure rates decrease exponentially. Consensus panels studying head and neck cancers have established definite categorization systems to determine the extent of squamous cancers in head and neck. These staging systems categorize the stage of the disease and generalize clinical trial criteria for research studies.

Head and Neck Cancer Stem Cells
Head and Neck Cancer Stem Cells

The TNM Classification System

Head and neck cancers are staged (read categorized) by the TNM classification system. Here, T stands for the configuration and size of the tumor, N denotes the presence/ absence of lymph node metastases while M signifies the presence/absence of distant metastases. Together, the T, N, and M characteristics define the “stage” of the cancer, ranging from I to IVB.

Residual Effects

Post operative care is a must in case of head and neck cancers. Rehabilitation is extremely tedious and as much as the reconstructive and rehabilitation treatments have advanced, a patient’s life is hugely impacted after the surgery. Some patients develop serious functional deficits post surgery and the IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy) and other conservation approaches only make recuperation further difficult. Some cancer treatments result in the formation of a secondary tumor which threaten long term survival even after a successful treatment. Let us analyze the side effects of head and neck cancer treatment with respect to the key functional systems in the human body.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy
Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

Respiratory System

The human respiratory system takes the biggest hit, especially in case of throat cancer. The air passages in the mouth and nasal areas become choked due to swelling or development of lumps due to the open sores from Radiotherapy. If the cancer was originally  located in the lower part of the throat, there is a high possibility that it may have spread to the lungs, thus hampering the patient’s breathing abilities.

Lymph Nodes
Lymph Nodes in Neck

Digestive System

Post operative side effects of head and neck cancer include the patient’s inability to swallow or digest food. Consequently, they tend to choke on their food. Radiotherapy further causes nausea and vomiting, thereby reducing the body’s fluid levels.

It is important to understand that as cancer spreads from one body organ to another, metastasization affects several parts of the body. It is especially fatal  if it spreads to the bone marrow, as this hampers the production of blood cells – white and red. This further damages the body’s immune system bringing about a shutdown of all bodily functions.

This concludes our 3-part series. Please give your feedback, additional information or ask questions relevant to head and neck cancer through the comments section.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nineteen + seven =