Many cancers have few, if any, symptoms--which is why it’s important to have regular check-ups and discuss appropriate screenings with your doctor. This is especially true of head and neck cancers which are on the rise. Over 50,000 new cases of oral, head and neck cancers are expected this year and over 12,000 people will lose their life to these cancers.
As part of Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week® (OHANCAW®), April 22-28, we are sharing information about these cancers and promoting prevention and early detection through free screenings.
Signs and Symptoms
Most oral cancers develop on the lips, tongue or the floor of the mouth. They also may occur inside your cheeks, on your gums or on the roof of your mouth. Other head and neck cancers arise from the voice box or throat. Some signs and symptoms include:
- A sore in your mouth that doesn't heal or that increases in size
- Persistent pain in your mouth
- Lumps or white or red patches inside your mouth
- Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving your tongue
- Soreness in your throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat
- Changes in your voice
- A lump in your neck
If you have any of the above warning signs, do not wait for the free screenings. Seek medical attention immediately.
Tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use are the most important risk factors for oral, head and neck cancers, particularly those of the tongue, mouth, throat and voice box. Eighty-five percent of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco use. People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk for developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.
Anyone can develop thyroid cancers, although a family history or exposure to radiation is often a factor. Salivary gland cancers do not seem to be associated with any particular cause.
Researchers have attributed the increase of head and neck cancer incidence in young adults, a group traditionally at low risk, to the human-papillomavirus (HPV. Many studies support that oropharyngeal cancers -- those affecting the tonsils, back of the mouth (throat) and base of the tongue -- have been on the rise since the mid-1980s, and currently 50-70 percent of these cases are caused by HPV infection. Many studies show that patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancers are more responsive to treatment and have better survival rates than HPV-negative patients.
Who Should Get Screened?
Every adult should get screened as the incidence of head and neck cancers are increasing, even in non-smokers. The screenings are quick, painless, and designed to advance early diagnosis, which can lead to better outcomes.
Free screenings will be offered at more than 300 participating institutions worldwide. Visit www.OHANCAW.com for a list of participating sites and for more information.
Head and Neck Cancer Alliance