Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis of Head & Neck Cancer

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Memorial Sloan Kettering surgeons participate in a panel discussion of the latest advances in head and neck cancer treatment.

Jatin Shah talks about some of the symptoms associated with head and neck cancer. These could include a bloody nose, sore throat, ear pain, changes in voice, bloody phlegm, and difficulty swallowing. Symptoms are often ignored by patients as insignificant, so patient education about head and neck cancers is crucial to early diagnosis. If symptoms become persistent (lasting more than three to four weeks), Dr. Shah highly encourages patients to see a doctor.

He says that patients are often shy about bringing their concerns up with their physician, but it is very important to be open with the physician as it increases the chance of early diagnosis.

Snehal Patel talks about likely steps a physician would take if the patient does have these persistent problems and there is a reasonable suspicion that the patient has cancer. A variety of imaging techniques are often used in diagnosis. Also, advances in technology such as flexible scopes allow physicians to visualize the suspicious area without actually removing tissue. These methods are all reliable ways to determine if cancer is present without performing a biopsy.