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Posted June 20, 2022 by Greg Manson, M.D.
While head and neck cancers are not the most common malignancies diagnosed in the US, it affects a significant number of patients. According to the National Cancer Institute, this group of cancers occur in about 4 percent of all cancers in the country.
While more common cancers such as breast, colon and lung cancer are more known, oral, head and neck cancers can and do occur, especially in men. Additionally, the population affected by this disease has changed over the last several decades.
Summa Health is shedding light on oral, head and neck cancers, risk factors, symptoms and key prevention measures. Catching any cancer early — before it has a chance to grow and spread — is key to improving your outcome.
Oral, head and neck cancer is a group of cancers that can be found in the:
There are many parts of the mouth and throat that support our ability to breathe, talk, eat, chew and swallow. They are all made up of many types of cells and different cancers can start in each type of cell.
According to the American Cancer Society, oral, head and neck cancers are more than twice as common in men than women, and are diagnosed more often in people over the age of 50.
The main risk factors for developing them are tobacco use, including secondhand smoke and smokeless tobacco, heavy alcohol use and an infection from certain types of HPV (human papillomavirus).
When you combine smoking and drinking together, it multiplies your risk for these types of cancers. In fact, your risk is about 30 times higher than the risk in people who don’t smoke or drink.
HPV associated head and neck cancers have increased significantly in the last several decades.
Other risk factors include:
In general, patients with head and neck cancer may develop a lump in the neck or a sore inside the mouth or throat that just won’t heal. Some people also may experience blood in their saliva, spit or phlegm.
However, each type of oral, head and neck cancer presents specific symptoms:
Preventative measures are key to lowering your risk of cancer. While there are some risk factors you can’t change your gender or family medical history to prevent oral, head and neck cancer, you can take steps to lower your controllable risk factors, such as:
Take these steps to be proactive with your health. Not only can they help you prevent oral, head and neck cancers, but other diseases and conditions as well. Make it a priority to commit to a healthy lifestyle today.