April Is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. This refers to cancers found in the:

  • Oral cavity, which includes the lips and tongue
  • Throat
  • Voice box
  • Nasal cavity
  • Salivary glands

Oral, head and neck cancers only make up 4% of all cancer cases. However, they have an 80% survival rate if they are caught early, according to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance. There were more than 68,000 people in the U.S. diagnosed with head and neck cancers in 2021, according to the National Cancer Institute

Some common causes of oral, head and neck cancers include:
  • Alcohol use
  • Tobacco use
  • Radiation exposure
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Having Asian ancestry
  • Having human papillomavirus strains associated with cancers
The symptoms of head and neck cancer will vary depending on where the cancer is. Some common symptoms include:
  • A recurring or constant sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Voice changes or new voice hoarseness
  • A lump in the neck, mouth, or throat that doesn’t get better

Although these symptoms may have other causes not associated with cancer, you should see a doctor to help figure out what’s causing them. If the symptoms are happening in your mouth, you can start with seeing a dentist.

Treatments for oral, head and neck cancers are similar to other types of cancer, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, and targeted therapy. The type of therapy used will depend on where the tumor is, cancer stage, and other individual factors. 

Avoiding tobacco use is one way to cut down your risk of oral, head and neck cancer. You should also talk to your dentist about getting regular checks for oral cancer during your check ups.

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