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Early Signs & Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer: What to Look Out For

Head and neck cancer affect the throat, mouth, or other parts of the neck and head. The factors that increase the risk of this kind of cancer include overuse of alcohol, tobacco, or an HPV infection.

The different types of head and neck cancers include oral, oropharyngeal, hypopharyngeal, laryngeal, nasopharyngeal, salivary gland, and nasal cavity & paranasal sinus cancer. 

Head and neck cancers are often effectively treatable if diagnosed early. If the diagnosis has to be done early on, you must stay aware of this kind of cancer’s early signs and symptoms. If you experience any of these head and neck cancer symptoms, consult your doctor to go through the required diagnostic tests and get timely treatment. With timely treatment, the chances of cancer cure are higher. 

Head and neck cancer symptoms

  • Difficulty or Trouble While Swallowing

Cancer of the throat or esophagus can make it difficult to swallow food, even if it is liquid. When you eat, the food may get stuck, or sometimes, even if it goes through your stomach, it is likely to come up right back.

If you face such difficulties, it is time to consult your doctor soon. If your doctor suspects esophageal cancer, he may do a physical examination and advise you to undergo a few tests, like an ultrasound or an upper endoscopy. Such tests let the doctor examine the esophagus lining. It is also used to get a tissue sample from the lymph nodes for further testing.

  • A Swelling in the Mouth

A persistent sore or a painless growth in the mouth could indicate mouth or tongue cancer. You may also experience bleeding as cancer progresses to advanced stages. If you see any persistent swelling in your mouth that doesn’t go away even after a week, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

  • Unusual Bleeding or Coughing Up Blood 

Cancer of the throat, nose, mouth, or lungs can result in bleeding. If you notice blood spots in your saliva or phlegm for several days, get an appointment with your doctor right away.

  • A Lump in the Neck

Cancers that begin either in the head or the neck spread to the neck’s lymph nodes first. If you feel a lump in the neck area that remains for more than two weeks, it is time to see your doctor, as this is abnormal. All lumps may not be cancerous, but having a neck lump for a long time could be a concern. 

It could be something like a benign tumour or a growth. It could even be a different type of cancer, like thyroid gland cancer, blood cancer, or voice box cancer.

  • Persistent Pain Around or In Your Ear

If you have been experiencing earache for quite some time when you swallow, it could indicate a tumour developing in your throat. It is even more concerning if your earache is accompanied by a swallowing problem, a neck lump, or hoarseness. Consult your doctor to know the root cause of the problem.

  • Changes in Voice 

Larynx cancer can cause voice changes. Even though most of the time, changes in voice are not due to cancer, it’s better to rule it out after a medical examination. Tell your doctor if you have been experiencing hoarseness for more than two weeks.

  • Skin Changes

Watch out for any changes in your skin, as it could be a symptom of squamous cell cancer, basal cell cancer, or malignant melanoma. These changes could be anything like black-blue or blue skin discolouration, a bleeding mole, a change in the colour or size of a mole, small pale patches that gradually grow bigger, or a persistent sore on the lip or ear. 

You need to watch out for these early signs and symptoms. Don’t delay consulting your doctor if you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for quite a long. This way, you can get timely head and neck cancer treatment so that it can be effective.

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