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Head & Neck Cancer

WHAT IS ORAL, HEAD AND NECK CANCER?
  • Cancer that arises in the head or neck region, including the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, thyroid glands, salivary glands, throat, or larynx (voice box).
  • The sixth-most-common form of cancer in the world.
  • Over 2,00,000 cases (including thyroid) diagnosed annually in India

FAQS

What is included in Head and Neck Cancer?

Head and neck cancers include cancers of the following areas:

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Voice Box
  • Skin
  • Sinuses
  • Saliva glands
  • Thyroid gland

Head and neck cancers represent the sixth most common form of cancer in the United States without including skin or thyroid cancers. There are more than 50,000 cases diagnosed annually and over 12,000 deaths.(American Cancer Society, 2009) Research has shown that many people do not understand where these cancers are, what causes them, and how they are diagnosed. In fact, there may be a lack of knowledge among health care professionals including physicians and dentists about this disease.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of the Wide Variety of Head and Neck Cancers?

An early indication of cancer is often no sign or symptom. However, once a cancer is visible to humans or grows into other tissues, it may begin to cause other visible signs or physical symptoms. Signs and symptoms may include:

MOUTH (ORAL) CANCER

  • A sore in mouth that doesn’t heal or increases in size
  • Persistent pain in mouth
  • White or red patches inside mouth or on the tongue
  • Thickening of cheek
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving tongue
  • Difficulty moving jaw, or swelling or pain in jaw
  • Soreness in throat or feeling that something is caught in throat
  • Pain around teeth, or loosening of teeth
  • Numbness of tongue or elsewhere in mouth
  • A lump in neck
  • Loose dentures or change in fitting of dentures
  • Bad breath

THROAT (PHARYNX) CANCER

  • A sore in mouth that doesn’t heal or increases in size
  • Sore throat, swallowing pain or earache
  • Bleeding from mouth or throat
  • Persistent pain in mouth
  • Lumps or white or red areas on palate or tonsil
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving tongue
  • Difficulty moving jaw, or swelling or pain in jaw
  • Soreness in throat or feeling that something is caught in throat
  • Pain around teeth, or loosening of teeth
  • Numbness of tongue or elsewhere in mouth
  • A lump in neck
  • Bad breath

VOICE BOX (LARYNX) CANCER

  • Changes in voice
  • Sore throat, swallowing pain or earache
  • Bleeding from mouth or throat
  • Persistent pain in mouth
  • Lumps or white or red areas on palate or tonsil
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving tongue
  • Difficulty moving jaw, or swelling or pain in jaw
  • Soreness in throat or feeling that something is caught in throat
  • A lump in neck
  • Bad breath
  • Trouble breathing or coughing up blood

SKIN CANCER (Melanoma, Squamous Cell, Basal Cell)

  • Red, white, or brown spot on skin that grows, changes, or bleeds
  • A lump or pimple that does not go away
  • Numbness of the skin
  • Paralysis of the face
  • A scaly area or change in texture of skin that does not go away
  • A lump in neck

THYROID CANCER

  • A growth or swelling of the neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Changes in voice
  • A lump in neck
  • A scaly area or change in texture of skin that does not go away
  • A lump in neck

SINUS OR NOSE CANCER

  • Swelling of the gums, cheek or eyes
  • Loose dentures
  • Bleeding from the nose
  • Numbness of the skin
  • Paralysis of the face
  • A lump in neck
Are Screenings Painful?

The screenings typically last about five minutes, are non-invasive and painless.

Where can I get a screening?

Dentists, doctors, and other health professionals generally offer screenings for oral, head and neck cancer. Free screenings are also offered nationwide during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week in April, and at various other events throughout the year.

Can a healthy diet help prevent head and neck cancer?

A nutritious, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing head and neck cancer.

Does smoking cause head and neck cancer?

Tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use are the most important risk factors for 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. (Source: National Cancer Institute)

Can drinking alcohol increase the risk of head and neck cancer?

See above answer on smoking.

Is there a link between oral sex and head and neck cancer?

Over the past decade, an increasing number of young, non-smokers have developed mouth and throat cancer associated with the human-papillomavirus, or HPV. Today, 25 percent – 10,000 cases each year – might be attributable to a strain of HPV. Physicians and researchers believe this might be due to an increase in oral sex as part of early sexual experience.

What causes Thyroid Cancer?

Thyroid cancers can develop in anyone, although there often is a family history or exposure to radiation or x-rays. Salivary gland cancers also do not seem to be associated with any particular cause.