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What are Oral, Head and Neck Cancers?

What are Oral, Head and Neck Cancers?

There’s been a rise in oral cancer rates over the past decade or so. As a result, doctors urge patients to get screened regularly, because early detection is key to successful treatment.

What are Oral Head and Neck Cancers?

These cancers are referred to as OHANCA (Oral, head and neck cancer) because they consist mainly of a particular type of malignant, squamous cell found in the tongue, throat and/or voice box. However, there are other cancers that affect the mouth, neck and head – including cancer that occurs on the lips, in the sinuses, thyroid or saliva glands, etc.

Currently, about 110,000 Americans are diagnosed with some type of OHAN cancer each year. As mentioned above, oral cancer rates are on the rise as a result of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is also a precursor for cervical cancer in women.

OHAN Cancer Screenings Catch Cancer Before It Catches You

Unfortunately, similar to colorectal and certain other cancers, OHAN cancers are often caught in Stages 3 and 4, when treatment(s) become more invasive and survival rates are lower. Routine screening for oral, head and neck cancers are key to catching cancer early, significantly increasing treatment success rates.

This is why every year, the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance sponsors FREE OHAN cancer screenings all around the Unites States. You can also do your part to catch OHAN cancer early by paying attention to your body and scheduling an appointment with your general physician or an ENT if you notice any strange signs or symptoms.

Symptoms of oral, head and neck cancer include:

  • A strange lump that does not go away
  • An oral sore that doesn’t heal or go away (often a white or red patch on the gums and/or swelling around the jaw)
  • Unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Frequent ringing in the ears or difficulty hearing
  • Ear pain, particularly when swallowing
  • Pain around the eyes/sinuses that doesn’t clear with antibiotics or over-the-counter remedies
  • Swelling under the chin
  • Persistent numbness, paralysis and/or pain anywhere around the face, chin and neck

Not surprisingly, any and all of these symptoms are also related to colds, flus and/or allergies – as well as other medical ailments. So, while there’s no cause for panic – it is imperative that you schedule an appointment if you notice any of the above signs/symptoms to be evaluated.

Risk Factors for Oral, Head & Neck Cancer

While anyone can be diagnosed with OHAN can, there are identified risk factors:

  • Men are affected almost twice as much as women
  • Thyroid cancers are more typical in women than in men
  • Tobacco and alcohol consumption are the leading causes of mouth and voice box cancers
  • Smoking cigarettes increases your chances of getting OHAN cancers by 15 times
  • Chewing tobacco causes mouth cancer
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) is responsible for mouth cancers on the tonsils and the back of the tongue. Oral sex is a contributor so always use protection in a non-monogamous relationship.

Don’t go another year without a screening? Ask your doctor or dentist for an OHAN cancer screening the next time you schedule an appointment. Looking for an ENT who takes a proactive approach to catch potential medical issues on the early side? Contact us here at Palouse Specialty Physicians.

image: kalhh/pixabay

Published on April 6, 2018