chapter  18
26 Pages

Head and Neck

ByWilliam J. Brundage

Head and neck cancer involves a broad range of cell types in a very anatomically complex and important area of the human body. The head and neck contain the organs of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and voice production. The mouth and throat are critical areas because the digestive process begins there. The nose and mouth warm and filter air. The voice, facial muscles, and eyes convey emotion and are critical for communication. The neck houses the blood supply to the brain, the neural communication from the brain to the body, and the endocrine organs that regulate overall body metabolism and calcium metabolism at the cellular level. While appearance and voice conspicuously reflect advanced age, there are age-related anatomic and physiologic changes throughout the head and neck. These complex and integrated functions make treating cancers in this region very challenging, especially in older patients among whom they are most common. No one chapter could adequately cover all aspects of head and neck cancer diagnosis and treatment in the elderly. The majority of patients with head and neck cancers are 60 years and older. The goal of this chapter is to provide an overview with a focus on issues relevant to older patients.