Oral, head and neck cancer awareness month is an important new way to shed light, educate and empower all people with information about these types of cancer. The statistical rates of these types of cancer grow each year, with more causes and risk factors exposing themselves as the years roll on. This year along, over five-hundred-fifty-thousand people worldwide will be diagnosed with some form of one of these types of cancer. Bringing awareness of these cancers can ensure a timely diagnosis for patients and the start of treatment. Early detection is key with oral, head and neck cancer, as most cases are not found or diagnosed until they have grown to stage three or four.
The entire month of April is dedicated to oral cancer awareness! Over fifty-three thousand people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year along. This means that roughly one-hundred-thirty people are diagnosed each day in the United States and that one person every hour of the day, will lose their battle against this potentially aggressive cancer.
One of the top causes of developing oral cancer is the use of tobacco and smoking. This risk can be lessened by ceasing smoking and using any and all tobacco products. Another cause of oral cancer that is not as easy to control is the human papillomavirus infection or HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can infect the healthiest of individuals and not reveal itself for months or years to come. The only real way to prevent HPV is to not engage in sexual activity or to only be with a partner that has been fully tested in a monogamous relationship. Today, there are vaccines being made to help prevent against the development and spread of HPV, although these vaccines do come with their own side effects. If you have questions about the HPV vaccines, do speak with your doctor or medical care team today.
The signs and symptoms of oral cancer may vary, but can include any of the following:
- A red or white patch that develops in your mouth that is sore and does not heal. These sores can develop inside your cheek, on your gums, on the roof or floor of your mouth, on your lips or tongue- anywhere where your moist tissues are.
- A persistent sore throat that does not go away with treatment or medication.
- Persistent hoarseness of your voice or changes in the tone of your voice.
- Persistent ear pain of varying degrees.
- A lump in your mouth or neck that does not go away.
- Frequent nosebleeds or bleeding in your oral cavity with no explanation.
- Numbness in the cheek or facial swelling with or without pain.
Head and Neck Cancer
Cancers that form in the head and neck usually begin as squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces inside of the mouth, nose, throat and the salivary glands. These cancer cells are often called squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. These types of cancers are found in three-percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States (NCI). Head and neck cancers are more prevalent in men than in women and are usually diagnosed more often in those over the age of fifty. Other major risk factors that increase your overall chances of developing these cancers are alcohol and tobacco use. Also, the infection that has been linked to causing many kinds of cancer, the human papillomavirus or HPV, also heightens your risk. There are other risk factors, and they include:
- Eating preserved or salted foods.
- Poor oral hygiene and missing teeth.
- Occupational exposure to wood dust, asbestos, and synthetic fibers.
- Radiation exposure.
- Epstein-Barr virus infection.
- Asian ancestry, particularly Chinese ancestry.
The symptoms of head and neck cancer may include a lump or a sore that will not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, troublesome swallowing, and a change in the sound or hoarseness of your voice.
The treatment for all of these types of cancers are very similar. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, or a combination of the lot, depending on your case, stage and overall health history.
How can I help to spread awareness about oral, head and neck cancers?
With the ease of social media, it is very easy to share informative articles, topics, and links that share and help to spread awareness about these cancers! By using hashtags made for the month, this helps to link all posts made about one topic together. When someone then clicks on these hashtags, all posts are brought to the main screen for the patient or person to read over.
For this month, using the hashtag #OHNC2020 or #OralHeadNeckCancerAwareness is used by many of the leading organizations that steer the causes that drive further funding and research on these topics.
Oral Cancer Organization
National Cancer Institute Reclaiming Intimacy