- Cancer of the head and neck includes cancers of the:
- Larynx, nasal passages/nose, oral cavity, pharynx and salivary glands
- Tonsils and oropharynx
- Gums, floor of the mouth, and other parts of the mouth in a nearby area such as the larynx (voice box), the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach), or the lung;
- An estimated 39,500 new cases of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers will be diagnosed in 2015 in the U.S.
- Approximately 7,500 deaths from those cancers are expected in 2015.
- The average age of most people diagnosed with these cancers is 62. They can occur in young people, but a little more than 25% occur in patients younger than 55.
- Men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with these cancers than women.
- They are about equally common in blacks and in whites.
- There has been a recent rise in cases of oropharyngeal cancer linked to infection with human papilloma virus (HPV) in white men and women.
- Some who are cured of oral or oropharyngeal cancer will develop another cancer later in the lung, mouth, throat, or other nearby areas. For this reason, patients with oral and oropharyngeal cancer will need to have follow-up exams for the rest of their lives. They also need to avoid using tobacco and alcohol, which increase the risk for these second cancers.
- While prognosis for these cancers is excellent when caught early, more than half of them are identified in advanced stages, when the prognosis is far worse, making prevention critical to saving lives.
Source: American Cancer Society
- Limiting tobacco and alcohol exposure can help prevent head and neck cancers.
- Ultraviolet radiation is an important and avoidable risk factor for cancer of the lips, as well as for skin cancer.
- Avoiding sources of oral irritation, such as dentures that do not fit properly, may also lower risk for oral cancer.
- A poor diet has been related to oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers.
- Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on foods from plant sources.
- Important warning signs of head and neck cancer, specifically the larynx and hypopharynx, include:
- Sore throat that doesn’t go away
- Constant coughing
- Trouble swallowing or pain with swallowing
- Ear pain that doesn’t go away
- Trouble breathing
- Weight loss
- Hoarseness that lasts more than two weeks
- Lump or mass in the neck
At this time there are no widely recommended blood tests or other screening exams to detect brain tumors before they start to cause symptoms. These tumors usually come to light as a result of signs or symptoms the person is having. In most cases, the patient’s survival is determined by their age, the type of tumor, and its location, not by how early it is detected. But as with any disease, earlier detection and treatment is likely to be helpful.