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Head & Neck Conditions, Lumps & Tumours

  • What are head and neck conditions?

    Head and neck conditions

    Head and neck conditions refer mainly to tumours that affect the head and neck areas. These areas include the nose and sinuses, the nasopharynx (area behind the nose just above the throat), the oral cavity (mouth), the thyroid glands (below the voice box), the oropharynx (throat), the larynx (voice box), the hypopharynx (inlet into the throat) and the salivary gland.

    Head and neck conditions such as head and neck tumours, which can be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), and head and neck cancer require immediate medical attention.

    Treatments for these conditions may include medication and head and neck surgery.

  • Risk factors for head and neck conditions

    The risk factors for head and neck cancer vary depending on the condition and the location of the cancer. However, most frequent factors include:

    • Tobacco use – Smoking presents the utmost risk of developing head and neck lumps. However, secondhand smoke may increase the threat.
    • Excessive alcohol consumption - The second largest risk factor for tumours of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, and oesophagus is an excessive amount of alcohol consumption.
    • Certain illnesses - Illnesses that are linked to head and neck tumours include:
      • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection – Infection with EBV, a member of the herpesvirus family, causes symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes and tonsils, and skin rashes.
      • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection – This viral infection usually causes skin growths or mucous membrane growths. Symptoms include genital warts, plantar warts, common warts, and flat warts.
      • Fanconi anaemia – Also known as FA, fanconi anaemia prevents the bone marrow from properly functioning and producing healthy blood cells.
      • Dyskeratosis congenita – This is a rare genetic disorder that can cause bone marrow failure and lung disease.
    • Sun exposure – Lip and oral tumour risks may increase from prolonged sun exposure.
    • Radiation therapy – Great amounts of radiation therapy in the head and neck region may increase the risk of developing lumps and tumours.
    • Nutrition – Head and neck conditions may also be caused by poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies.

    Preventing head and neck conditions

    The risk of head and neck conditions like lumps and tumours can be significantly lowered by controlling some risk factors through the following health habits:

    • Avoid or quit smoking.
    • Avoid abuse on alcohol drinking.
    • Have a well-balanced diet.
    • Use sunscreen and lip balm regularly.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • The symptoms of head and neck cancers depend on the type of condition. Some general symptoms include:

    • A lump on the neck
    • Constant pain in the face or mouth
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Hoarseness of voice
    • Neck pain
    • Chronic mouth and tongue ulcers
    • Sore throat

    Head and neck lumps and tumours can spread rapidly to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body, including the lungs. Thus, it is important to get a quick and accurate diagnosis.

    See a doctor as soon as possible if there is a lump or sore that does not heal, bleeding through the nose or changes in the voice.

  • After asking about your symptoms and medical history, your doctor may require you to undergo diagnostic tests, including:

    Physical examination

    Aspects of physical examination for head and neck include inspecting of face, checking pupillary response and extraocular movements, sensations to light touch in all three distributions, checking of muscles of facial expression, hearing with at least 512 Hz, turning head against resistance, and protruding tongue.

    Other components of the exam include examining ears, nose, and oral cavity/oropharynx. You may also be assessed for gag reflex, level of lymph nodes as well as salivary glands, and nodules.

    Endoscopy

    In this procedure, a special lighted scope called endoscope is used to get a close look at the tumour. A small camera at the end of the endoscope communicates images to a video screen that the doctor views to check for signs of abnormalities in the area.

    Laboratory tests

    You will also need to undergo several tests to check blood, urine, or other body samples.

    Imaging tests for the head and neck

    Imaging tests for the head and neck, including X-ray, computerised tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET), may aid the doctor to determine the extent of the condition.

    Biopsy

    If certain abnormalities are discovered during an endoscopy, the doctor can pass surgical instruments through the scope to collect a tissue sample or biopsy. The sample tissue will be brought to a laboratory for testing. A swollen lymph node using a technique called fine-needle aspiration may also be taken.

  • Depending on your specific condition, a customised treatment plan to address the cause of your head and neck problems. We provide a range of treatments including:

    Medication

    You will be prescribed medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for tumours that occur in the head or neck region, including the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat, or larynx or voice box.

    Neck mass removal

    The surgery to remove a neck mass is called “excision”. Employing general anaesthesia, a surgeon conducts an incision in the neck to access the neck mass, then carefully removes the tissue.

    Laryngoscopy

    A laryngoscopy is an assessment that gives the doctor a close-up view of the larynx and throat.

    Thyroidectomy

    Thyroidectomy is the surgical removal of all or portions of the thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland that generates hormones that control every aspect of the metabolism.

    Tonsillectomy

    Tonsillectomy is the surgical removal of the tonsils, the two oval-shaped pads of tissue at the back of the throat.

    Neck cancer surgery

    A neck dissection is a surgery to remove particular or all of the lymph nodes in one or both sides of the neck. This medical procedure is done if the tests show that cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or if the cancer is large.

    Proper diagnosis is crucial to determine the most suitable treatment for you. Consult a specialist at Parkway East Hospital. With the aid of medical equipment, our team of experienced specialists and nurses will work together to come up with an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan for your condition.

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  • Head and neck conditions may cause other health complications and disease such as:

    Pulmonary complications

    Respiratory and pulmonary complications are a frequent cause of morbidity and mortality among patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Long-term management and the health of patients are important to intervene in the complications.

    Neurologic complications

    Some neurologic complications of head and neck conditions include:

    • Cranial neuropathies – damage of the nerves in the brain or brainstem
    • Brain metastasis – cancer that has spread to the brain
    • Leptomeningeal disease – when cancer cells migrate from a part of the body to the cerebrospinal fluid
    • Epidural spinal cord compression – cancer complication that causes secondary compression of the spinal cord
    • Brachial plexopathy – damage to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves, can cause a lack of movement and feeling in the arm and shoulder.
    • Syncope – fainting due to decrease in the amount of blood that goes to the brain
    • Glossopharyngeal neuralgia – this refers to the repeated episodes of extreme pain in the throat, tongue, tonsils, and ears.
    • Paraneoplastic neurologic syndrome – this occurs when cancer-fighting agents of the immune system damage some parts of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves and/or the muscle.

    Eating problems

    Eating problems after head and neck treatment may include needing to swallow many times to clear food from your mouth and throat, having a gurgly, wet-sounding voice after swallowing, coughing or choking, throat clearing while eating, having pain when swallowing, and having dry mouth or throat.

    Dry mouth

    Dry mouth is caused by upfront damage to the salivary glands by radiation, which damages the ability to make saliva.

    Tooth loss

    A tumour itself may cause damage or destruction of the teeth and jaw. During surgery or radiation therapy, the salivary glands can be removed or damaged, leading to decreased salivary flow which is instrumental to oral health defenses.

    Lymphoedema

    Lymphoedema, a long-term condition where too much fluid builds up in tissues causing swelling. This may occur after a head and neck treatment because parts of the lymph system have been removed or harmed by surgery or radiation. Lymphoedema can occur in any part of the head, neck, and face.

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    There are 10 SpecialistsView All