Head and neck cancers do not always get the attention that some other cancers get, like lung and breast cancer, but they can be every bit as serious. These cancers may involve the lips, mouth, throat, vocal cords, sinuses, and thyroid. When a tumor occurs in these areas, people are most often referred to an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist.
When it comes to finding head and neck cancers, an ENT is the doctor you want to see. They have special tools and techniques to help them find any problems. For example, they can use a very small camera to look closely at sinus cavities or all the way down to the vocal cords. Using this technology, they can find what they are looking for easily and quickly in an office setting. If they find anything questionable, they will often perform a biopsy. This is when they take a small piece of tissue for further testing. In addition, the doctor may order laboratory tests, x-rays, or specialized scans. Some of the scans they may get include a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or even a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. Each type of scan has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Once a cancer is diagnosed, the ENT doctor really gets down to business. Like other cancers, a person may need chemotherapy or radiation therapy. In addition, an ENT doctor is a surgeon, and they excel at removing tumors anywhere in the head and neck.
ENT doctors are experts in the anatomy of the head and neck. They understand that cancers in these areas can be devastating. The disease can cause difficulty swallowing, eating, or speaking. Moreover, these cancers can be severely disfiguring. For all these reasons, ENT doctors are trained in head and neck reconstruction techniques as well.
As you can see, ENT doctors are vital to the diagnosis and treatment of head and neck cancers. During a 5 year internship and residency, they gain extensive training with cancer and its negative effects. When cancer of the head and neck is the issue, an ENT doctor is who you want in your corner.