Early detection of head and neck cancer-February the 4th
World Health Organization (WHO) has announced February 4th will be designated as World Cancer Day; a day where citizens worldwide are encouraged to increase awareness of what WHO is calling a “global cancer crisis.”
The WHO researchers estimate that 84 million people across the globe will die of cancer by 2015. The majority of these individuals will not receive treatment and many may not even be formally diagnosed.
Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of these deaths. The good news is that this figure has decreased due to the increasing number of Americans who have quit smoking. The bad news is these tobacco companies are coming and putting up their factories in Asian countries to sell their products in India, Pakistan, china, Bangladesh etc.
Cancer of the head and neck is curable if caught early. Fortunately, most head and neck cancers produce early symptoms. You should know the potential warning signs so you can alert your doctor as soon as possible. Rememberâ€”successful treatment of head and neck cancer can depend on early detection. Knowing and recognizing the signs of head and neck cancer can save your life.
A lump in the neck-Cancers that begin in the head or neck usually spread to lymph nodes in the neck before they spread elsewhere. A lump in the neck that lasts more than two weeks should be seen by a surgeon as soon as possible. Of course, not all lumps are cancer. But a lump (or lumps) in the neck can be the first sign of cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx , thyroid gland, or of certain lymphomas or blood cancers. Such lumps are generally painless and continue to enlarge steadily.
Change in the voice-Most cancers in the larynx cause some changes in voice. Any hoarseness or other voice change lasting more than two weeks should alert you to see an ENT surgeon.. While most voice changes are not caused by cancer, you shouldn\’t take chances.
A growth in the mouth-Most cancers of the mouth or tongue cause a sore or swelling that doesn\’t go away. These sores and swellings may be painless unless they become infected. Bleeding may occur, but often not until late in the disease. If an ulcer or swelling is accompanied by lumps in the neck, be concerned. Your dentist or ENT doctor can determine if a biopsy is needed and can refer you to a head and neck surgeon to perform this procedure.
Spitting up blood-This is often caused by something other than cancer. However, tumors in the nose, mouth, throat, or lungs can cause bleeding. If blood appears in your saliva or sputum for more than a few days, you should see your doctor.
Swallowing problems-Dysphagia-Cancer of the throat or esophagus (food passage) may make swallowing solid foods difficult. Sometimes liquids can also be troublesome. The food may “stick” at a certain point and then either go through to the stomach or come back up. If you have trouble almost every time you try to swallow something, you should be examined by a physician. Usually a barium swallow x-ray or an esophagoscopy (direct examination of the swallowing tube with a telescope) will be performed to find the cause.
Skin tumors of head and neck-The most common head and neck cancer is basal cell cancer of the skin. Other kinds of cancer, including squamous cell cancer and malignant melanoma, also occur on the skin of the head and neck. Most squamous cell cancers occur on the lower lip and ear. Any mole that changes size, color, or begins to bleed may be trouble. A black or blue-black spot on the face or neck, particularly if it changes size or shape, should be seen as soon as possible by a doctor.
Constant pain in or around the ear when you swallow can be a sign of infection or tumor growth in the throat. This is particularly serious if it is associated with difficulty in swallowing, hoarseness or a lump in the neck. These symptoms are best evaluated by an ENT surgeon.
As many as 90 percent of head and neck cancers arise after prolonged exposure to specific factors.
Use of tobacco (cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or snuff) and alcoholic beverages are closely linked with cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, and tongue. (In adults who neither smoke nor drink, cancer of the mouth and throat are nearly nonexistent.) Prolonged exposure to sunlight is linked with cancer of the lip and is also an established major cause of skin cancer.
Remember: When found early, most cancers in the head and neck can be cured with relatively little difficulty. Cure rates for these cancers could be greatly improved if people would seek medical advice as soon as possible. So play it safe. If you think you have one of the warning signs of head and neck cancer, see your doctor right away.
Be safe: See your doctor early! And practice health habits which will make these diseases unlikely to occur.