Posted on April 15, 2021

20 Facts About Oral, Head & Neck Cancer

Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week® (OHANCAW) is led by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and supported by the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery. OHANCAW promotes awareness of oral, head, and neck cancer.

Head and neck cancers are curable if caught early. Fortunately, most of them produce early symptoms. You should know the potential warning signs so you can alert your physician as soon as possible. Successful treatment of head and neck cancer depends on early detection. Knowing and recognizing its signs can save your life.

Here are 20 facts you should know about oral, head and neck cancer:

  1. “Oral, head and neck cancer” typically refers to squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue, throat, and voice box. However, “head and neck cancer” also refers to other types of cancer that arises in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, thyroid glands, salivary glands, throat, or voice box.
  2. Worldwide, over 550,000 new cases of oral, head and neck cancer are diagnosed each year.
  3. Fifty percent of people with head and neck cancers have very advanced cases by the time they first see a doctor.
  4. A red or white patch in the mouth or a sore throat can be the first signs of cancers of the mouth and throat.
  5. Hoarseness or a change in the voice can be the first sign of cancer of the voice box.
  6. Signs of oral, head and neck cancer include a sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal; sore throat; lumps or patches in your mouth; trouble swallowing; changes in your voice; and/or a lump in your neck.
  7. Red patches in the mouth that are persistent, and do not have an obvious cause, can develop into cancer about 20 to 30 percent of the time. Removal is highly recommended.
  8. Most oral cancers form on the lips, tongue, or floor of the mouth. They may also occur inside your cheeks, on your gums, or on the roof of your mouth.
  9. Oropharyngeal cancer arises from the part of the mouth further back, toward the throat, and is different from mouth and lip cancer. Oropharyngeal cancer is often related to HPV, and occurs in the tonsils or tongue base. In contrast, oral cancers are in the mouth, and are often caused by tobacco and alcohol use.
  10. People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk than people who use only one or the other.
  11. Oral, head and neck cancer tends to form in the areas where tobacco and/or alcohol use has the most contact. For example, where the cigarette sits on the lip, or where the chewing tobacco is placed in the mouth.
  12. Chewing tobacco causes mouth cancer.
  13. Thyroid cancer can develop in anyone, although there may be a family history or exposure to radiation involved. Salivary gland cancers also do not seem to be related to any particular cause.
  14. The most common type of cancer in the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses is squamous cell carcinoma. It makes up a little over a half of the cancers in this area.
  15. Cancers of the nose and sinuses are rare; about 2,000 people develop these cancers every year.
  16. Sinus cancer should be considered when someone has frequent nose bleeds, numbness of the cheek, facial swelling, or pain.
  17. People who work in environments with dust, glues, formaldehyde, mustard gas, certain heavy metals, and radium are at higher risk for developing nose or sinus cancer.
  18. Head and neck cancers often spread to the lymph nodes of the neck.
  19. Once cancer is in the lymph nodes, it is more likely to spread throughout the body.
  20. Most head and neck cancers can be prevented.

Ear, Nose and Throat physicians at Physicians' Clinic of Iowa diagnose and treat all forms of oral, head and neck cancer. If you are concerned about symptoms, family history or potential environmental factors that could contribute to cancer, please give us a call, (319) 399-2022.

Adopted from the American Academy of Otolaryngology- Head and Neck Surgery   |

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