April is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month: Learn About Latest Treatments and New Clinical Trial
OHC has an exciting new clinical trial that will be opening soon for patients with head and neck cancer. The clinical trial will test a new immunotherapy drug — in patients who are already receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation — to see if the drug can prevent receptors in the immune system from being turned off by the cancer. If the drug is able to “unlock” these receptors, it could increase cure rates and the likelihood of survival for patients.
According to the National Cancer Institute, 65,000 people in the United States are newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer annually. Head and neck cancer includes cancers of the head, neck, oral cavity, larynx, pharynx, sinuses/nasal cavity, and salivary glands, and account for 4 percent of all cancers in this country.
While smoking, tobacco use, second-hand smoke, and drinking are still major risk factors for head and neck cancer, there is a growing population of healthy, nonsmoking individuals being diagnosed with this type of cancer. This is due to the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that is a sexually transmitted and can also be transmitted through oral sex.
Unfortunately, there are no standard or routine screening tests for head and neck cancers. However, patients should communicate to their primary care doctor the following signs and symptoms. Common symptoms include a sore throat that won’t go away, persistent hoarseness, a visual mass in the oral cavity or throat, difficulty swallowing, and ear pain caused from a mass in the throat.
Leading a generally health lifestyle and practicing safe sex can help reduce the risk of head and neck cancer. How can individuals help with prevention? The HPV vaccine, which is recommended for people ages nine to 26 years old, can help prevent individuals from acquiring the most common HPV viruses linked with several types of cancer.
Standard treatments for head and neck cancer depend on the location of the tumor, the tumor stage, the patient’s age, and their overall health. Treatments often include radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatments. Over the last 10 years, robotic surgery and other newer surgical techniques have gained popularity for treating head and neck cancers because of their ability to remove the tumor without impacting surrounding tissue.