Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness
Oral, head and neck cancers account for approximately 3 percent of all malignancies in the United States.
Since many people are not familiar with the signs and symptoms of these cancers, about 50 percent of these cases are found in late stages. Overall incidence began decreasing 30 years ago and stabilized in 2003, whereas overall mortality rates have steadily declined. Notably, the incidence of head and neck cancer in African Americans has declined over the past two decades and is now lower than that in whites.
Most begin in the moist tissues that line the mouth, nose and throat. Symptoms may include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, trouble swallowing or a change or hoarseness in the voice.
Most oral, head and neck cancers can be prevented. At least 75 percent of these diseases are caused by alcohol and tobacco, which are the two most important risk factors. Poor oral hygiene and missing teeth are risk factors for cancers of the oral cavity, and men are affected about twice as more as women with oral cancer. However, there is also a substantial focus on educating younger people. The Oral Cancer Foundation reports that the quickest growing segment of the oral cancer population is young, healthy, non-smokers due to the connection to the human papillomavirus (HPV). This means those with HPV need to know their risks and the warning signs for the disease.
Signs of oral, head and neck cancer may include a mouth sore that doesn’t heal, sore throat, lumps or patches in the mouth, trouble swallowing, changes in voice, or a lump in the neck. Symptoms also may affect specific areas of the head and neck and may include oral cavities, pharynx, larynx, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavities, and the salivary glands. It is important to check with your doctor or dentist if you experience any of these symptoms.
Screenings are the first step in early detection and may vary depending on symptoms. For an oral screening, a doctor will check your face, neck, lips and entire mouth. To find the cause of symptoms in the head or neck area, a doctor will evaluate the medical history, perform a physical examination and order diagnostic tests.
Click here for details on free oral screenings.