About Head & Neck Cancer
In general, head & neck cancer is not common. There are very rare cases diagnosed for this cancer type. The Head and neck cancers begin in the squamous cells that line the moist, mucosal surfaces inside the head and neck (i.e., inside the mouth, the nose, and the throat). In very rare cases, head & neck cancer begins in the salivary glands. Head & Neck cancers are categorized by the area of the head or neck in which they begin like cancers of oral cavity, Pharynx (throat), Larynx (Voicebox), Salivary glands, and Paranasal sinuses & nasal cavity.
Causes of Head & Neck Cancer
The two most important risk factors that cause cancers of head and neck are alcohol and tobacco. Other risk factors for cancers of the head and neck include:
- Paan (betel quid)
- Consumption of maté, a tea-like beverage
- Consumption of certain preserved or salted foods during childhood
- Poor oral hygiene and missing teeth
- Occupational exposure (like exposure to wood dust is a risk factor for
- Radiation exposure
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
Some common head and neck cancer symptoms include:
- Consistent swelling or soreness
- A lump in the nose, neck or throat
- Persistent sore throat
- Persistent nasal congestion
- Trouble in chewing, swallowing or movement in jaw/tongue
- Frequent coughing
- Change in voice or hoarseness
- Ear pain / jaw pain or trouble hearing
- Unexplained weight loss
How to prevent?
Early detection and by making certain lifestyle changes it is possible to prevent or lower the risk of head & neck cancer.
- People who consume tobacco should reduce the consumption and often visit doctors for routine checkups and to discuss about ways to reduce cancer risk.
- Those who are exposed to toxic fumes & dust should wear protective face masks. At such workplaces, companies must also install air-filtering systems to minimize employees’ exposure to harmful fumes and dust.
- Reducing risk of HPV infection by limiting the number of sexual partners
- Maintaining proper oral health