• 7/15/2006
  • Queensland, Australia
  • D Chin et al.
  • Expert Rev Anticancer Ther, July 1, 2006; 6(7): 1111-8

Head and neck cancer consists of a diverse group of cancers that ranges from cutaneous, lip, salivary glands, sinuses, oral cavity, pharynx and larynx. Each group dictates different management.

In this review, the primary focus is on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) arising from the mucosal lining of the oral cavity and pharynx, excluding nasopharyngeal cancer. Presently, HNSCC is the sixth most prevalent neoplasm in the world, with approximately 900,000 cases diagnosed worldwide. Prognosis has improved little in the past 30 years.

In those who have survived, pain, disfigurement and physical disability from treatment have had an enormous psychosocial impact on their lives. Management of these patients remains a challenge, especially in developing countries where this disease is most common.

Of all human cancers, HNSCC is the most distressing since the head and neck is the site of the most complex functional anatomy in the human body. Its areas of responsibility include breathing, the CNS, vision, hearing, balance, olfaction, taste, swallowing, voice, endocrine and cosmesis. Cancers that occur in this area impact on these important human functions.

Consequently, in treating cancers of the head and neck, the effects of the treatment on the functional outcome of the patient need the most serious consideration. In assessing the success of HNSCC treatment, consideration of both the survival and functional deficits that the patient may suffer as a consequence of their treatment are of paramount importance. For this reason, the modern-day management of head and neck patients should be carried out in a multidisciplinary head and neck clinic.

D Chin, GM Boyle, S Porceddu, DR Theile, PG Parsons, and WB Coman

Authors’ affiliation:
Department of Plastic Surgery and Head & Neck Unit, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane 4102, Queensland, Australia

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