Total care at the top: Dealing with head and neck cancers

Total care at the top: Dealing with head and neck cancers

Each organ of the body has a specific function to play in helping humans respond and adapt to their environment and thus in enabling a well-rounded lifestyle they can enjoy. At the top of the human body, the head, supported by the neck, houses the brain — which initiates and regulates communication with the rest of the body — as well as most of our sensory organs.

Like other organ systems, the head and neck are also prone to risk, and cancer is among them. According to head & neck surgeon and senior consultant Dr. Christopher Goh, head and neck cancer refers to a wide range of malignant tumors found in the neck and head region, which extends from the eyes to the neck base.

For this type of cancer, smoking, drinking, as well as viruses, poor oral hygiene and dental care are the most established causes of such illness. Symptoms include neck lumps, ulcers, voice changes, and ringing sounds in the ears.

With advancements in medicine constantly evolving, nonetheless, addressing head and neck cancer can be more durable and bearable. In most cases, cancer patients start with a diagnosis based on their symptoms; and if treatment is needed, patients must undergo an endoscopy, followed by treatments through surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments.

Unlike other cancers, head and neck cancer is a bit more tricky. Dr. Goh says that it is not easily detectable since they are well-hidden in areas that are highly concealed like the rear of the nose, voice box, or the larynx.

However, there are some cancers of this type that can be detected early on, especially those with symptoms such as tongue cancers or ulcers, allowing for preventive measures to be taken.

According to Dr. Goh, head and neck cancer treatments have made a lot of progress in recent years. For instance, new types of chemotherapy and targeted therapy have been made available for patients. Also, reducing radiation damage and side effects is possible with proton beam therapy. Finally, endoscopic methods are being used to help reduce scarring and provide access to areas that are inaccessible.

Among hospitals specializing in cancer care, Mount Elizabeth Hospital is fully equipped to address head and neck cancer in a more convenient and holistic manner. One of the strongest cores of the hospital is its holistic medical care that ensures the best treatment, while also addressing the medical needs and providing an enhanced experience of privacy and comfort among patients.

“Mount Elizabeth Hospital has well-trained surgeons, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists. In addition to the support team, which is important [for us in cancer care], Mount Elizabeth Hospital provides a good support team for patient care. In terms of technology, Mount Elizabeth Hospital is one of the few hospitals, the first hospital in Singapore [in fact], to have the proton beam ready or treatment and it will give the best results and the least side effects for patients,” Dr. Goh said in an interview with BusinessWorld.

In terms of protecting one’s self from potentially getting head or neck cancers, the key is to keeping a healthy lifestyle through a well-balanced diet, proper rest, exercise, and reduced smoking and drinking.

For inquiries, please contact Mount Elizabeth Hospital’s patient assistance center located at G/F-B Marco Polo Hotel, Meralco Avenue and Sapphire Street, Ortigas Center, Pasig City 1600; e-mail or call 0917-526-7576. Follow them at


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