April is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), head and neck cancer makes up about 4% of all cancers in the United States. It is estimated that approximately 66,000 people will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer this year. Typically, about 75% of those diagnosed annually are males, with females making up around 25% of diagnosed cases.
Methodist Medical Group Otolaryngologist Dr. John Gleysteen treats patients with head and neck cancer and offers insights into what you should know.
What is head and neck cancer?
Head and neck cancer includes cancers affecting the mouth, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), sinuses and salivary glands. Although cancers of the facial skin, brain, eyes, esophagus and thyroid gland are certainly located in the head and neck region, they each have their own classification and are considered separate.
What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer?
Symptoms that you may notice include:
- A new lump in the neck
- A sore or ulcer in the mouth or throat that does not go away
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- A change in the voice (hoarseness)
What are the risk factors for developing head and neck cancer?
Risk factors include:
- Smoking or a history of smoking
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Using smokeless tobacco (chew, dip, snuff)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in the mouth, which can lead to development of cancers of the throat
The best thing you can do to reduce your risk is stop smoking!
Who treats head and neck cancer?
Head and neck cancer is treated by a multi-disciplinary team of surgical oncologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists. Head and neck surgical oncologists are specially trained Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeons.
What are the treatments for head and neck cancer?
Head and neck cancer is often treated with surgery and, depending on the size and extent, may require radiation therapy and chemotherapy as well. However, each patient and cancer must be treated individually. Surgery may not be right for every patient, in which case, they may be treated with radiation and/or chemotherapy instead.
If you notice any of these symptoms, and especially if you have any of these risk factors, you should talk to your primary care doctor or dentist immediately. They can refer you to a head and neck specialist.
To learn more, visit our website.
Do you have questions you'd like to ask an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist?
Schedule an appointment with Methodist Medical Group - Otolaryngology (ENT)