Head and Neck Cancer account for 30% of all cancers in India - Make Sense Campaign
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Dr. Akshay Karpe

The occurrence of cancer is increasing globally as well as in India. As per ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) 17 lac new cancer cases will be diagnosed annually by 2020.

Head and neck cancers account for about 30% of all cancers in India. Of these, about 1/4th cases are found in men and 1/10th are found in females.. Poverty, illiteracy, late diagnosis (about 60 to 80 % patients consult doctors during advance stages) and lack of access to healthcare pose major challenge in management of head and neck cancer.

In our country, about 70 to 80 % cancer patients consult specialists during advanced stages and hence, poor outcomes are quite likely. According to various surveys by concerned authorities, 50 % of cancers in India can be attributed to lifestyle or bad habits which include consumption of tobacco (chewing or smoking), alcohol, other forms of addiction, obesity etc.

In order to avoid late diagnosis of head and neck cancer, pay attention to these symptoms – trismus (difficulty in opening mouth), any ulcer or patch or swelling in oral cavity, any swelling in neck, hoarseness or change in voice, difficulty or pain while swallowing, persistent cough despite treatment, etc. One should consult specialists immediately on experiencing any of these symptoms.

Treatment modalities for head and neck cancers include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. As majority of patients present themselves in advanced stages, they require all three modalities of treatment. For head and neck cancer control, emphasis should be on preventing the onset (avoiding tobacco and alcohol, focusing on dental hygiene and regular oral examination) and detecting the disease at an early stage.