4 Reasons to get Checked for Head and Neck Cancer

Every year head and neck cancers make up 4% of cancers reported in the United States. Head and neck cancer is defined as any cancer that develops in your mouth, nose, vocal cords, or sinuses. While dangerous if untreated, many of these cancers are entirely treatable if caught in time. Read on for the top four reasons you should consider getting regular screenings for head and neck cancer. 

1. You are a smoker

Head and neck cancer refers to a group of cancers that originate in any of the following areas:

  • Throat: this includes your larynx, which protects your vocal cords and is also the place in your throat that controls swallowing and breathing, as well as your esophagus and trachea. 
  • Mouth: this includes your inner and outer lips, cheeks, tongue, and salivary glands.
  • Nose: both your nasal passages and your sinuses. 

Thyroid: located in the neck, this land regulates your body’s metabolism.
You have heard it before: smoking is dangerous and leads to lung cancer. But if you are a smoker or tobacco user, you are also putting yourself at higher risk for developing head and neck cancers; in fact, more than 85% of head and neck cancers are linked to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

2. You have avoided the dentist

Does anyone really like going to the dentist? It may not be your favorite, but a dentist is a key player on a cancer prevention team. Typically, twice a year your dentist examines your mouth and can be one of the first to notice signs of oral cancer, as almost all oral cancers start out as visible abnormalities in your mouth. Dentists can also check you for the signs of cancer in the salivary glands or the oropharynx.

Most dentists start basic oral cancer examinations at your first visit. If you want to be sure, ask your dentist if they have checked your mouth for signs of oral cancer.

3. You have HPV

The human papillomavirus (HPV) family includes more than 170 distinct types of viruses, and the highest risk type of HPV is well established as the primary cause of cervical cancer. However, in recent years, a link between HPV and head and neck cancers has been discovered. Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • A lump in the neck
  • Swallowing problems or pain
  • Lump or sore in the mouth or throat
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • An earache that does not go away
  • Numbness
  • Bleeding in the nose, mouth, or throat

The good news is that HPV-induced head and neck cancer has been well demonstrated to respond to almost all forms of therapy, including surgery, external beam radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. But regular screening is an important part of your health care plan!

4.    Screening is easy and accessible at The Barranco Clinic

Screening is a simple, straightforward way to look for head and neck cancer before the symptoms become obvious and may be more difficult to treat. These simple procedures mostly consist of a visual examination of your nose, mouth, and throat for abnormalities, and feeling for any lumps in the throat. If anything unusual is discovered,  more extensive tests are performed to identify or rule out cancer.

When you have yearly screenings for head and neck cancer, you lower your risk of cancers developing that are much more difficult to treat. Early intervention is the key. 


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