Cancers of the head and neck are relatively rare, but an estimated 50,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. However, they can be very serious, with oral cancer being a major cause for concern. Studies have shown that over half of all people diagnosed with oral cancer will die within five years from their initial illness or treatment.
There are a number of different types of head and neck cancer, with the most common being cancers of the nasal cavity, sinuses, and lips. Other less common types include tumors of the salivary glands, larynx (voice box), and pharynx (throat).
Risk factors for head and neck cancer include:
- Tobacco use.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- A history of previous cancer in the head or neck area.
- Exposure to certain viruses (such as HPV).
Treatment for head and neck cancer typically involves surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. If you are concerned about your risk for head and neck cancer, it is important to speak with your doctor. While these cancers are relatively rare, they can be very serious, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so get checked out if you have any concerns.
Everyone should regularly perform an oral cancer self-exam:
- Use a mirror and light to help you see all areas well.
- Check your lips and gums, the roof of your mouth, the inside of your cheeks and all the surfaces of your tongue.
- If anything looks unusual or feels different, make an appointment with your dentist or doctor right away!
Video copyright: American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
The information provided on this website should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition and is not meant to take the place of professional medical advice. If you think you have a medical problem, please seek the advice of a physician. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.