Head and neck cancer, lymphoma, thyroid cancer, and salivary gland/parotid masses affect tens of thousands of people a year, ranging in age from teenagers through late adulthood. Many of these tumors are completely sporadic and happen “by random chance” but may also be caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), prior exposure to Epstein Barr Virus (“mono”) or may even run in families.
An odd sore throat, new trouble swallowing, change in voice or new lump felt in the neck or throat is worthy of getting checked out by your doctor. General recommendations are new changes such as these lasting 3 weeks or more deserve and answer (and a cure!).
Otolaryngologists are trained in head and neck cancer surgery, including full workup and diagnosis. We have tools in the office such as ultrasound and endoscopy, and work closely with Head and Neck radiologists when more advanced scans are needed.
Many times the workup for a new lump includes a full physical examination by an experienced ENT, evaluation of the nose, mouth and throat tissues for signs of cancerous change, and ultrasound of the new lump. An on-the-spot needle biopsy can be performed if appropriate to get the diagnosis underway. Testing for Human Papilloma Virus exposure can also be carried out.
CT scanning (computed tomography) of the neck or MRI are the best imaging studies if surgery is thought to be needed. These can help fully measure the lesion, can give clues to diagnosis and help analyze the mass’s proximity to other structures.
A variety of developmental lumps can show up in the neck such as thyroglossal duct cysts, dermoid cysts, teratoma, and lipomas. These are generally benign conditions but usually require removal to confirm.
Surgery in the head and neck requires special attention to critical nearby anatomy including the jugular vein, carotid artery, nerves that control facial movement, the tongue, shoulder and vocal cords. Now most surgeries on the neck and thyroid can be done with minimal cosmetic or functional impact.
The interesting variety of cancerous and non-cancerous interesting problems happening in the head and neck area is a major reason many ENT doctors became ENT specialists to begin with!
If you have noticed a new lump or bump, hoarseness or pain the throat lasting three weeks or longer please go ahead and give us call to get the evaluation rolling and get things on the mend!