Head and neck cancer is preventable: Expert - Make Sense Campaign
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Dr.Jyoti Wadhwa

Head and neck cancer commonly refers to squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue, mouth, throat or voice box. It also refers to other cancers that arise in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, thyroid gland, and salivary glands.

It is a significant problem in our country, constituting approximately one-third of all cancer cases. Men are affected about twice as often as women. Patients often present to the doctor in late stages.

Tobacco (both smoking and chewable forms) and alcohol are the main causes of these cancers. People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at a greater risk than those who use only one or the other. A significant and increasing proportion of oropharyngeal (tonsillar and base of tongue) cancers can be attributed to human papilloma virus (HPV).

A non-healing ulcer in mouth or tongue, a change or hoarseness in the voice, difficulty in swallowing, or a lump in the neck could be indicators of trouble and one must seek immediate medical advice.
Most head and neck cancers can be prevented. A significant number can also be detected in early stages. When treated in the early stages, there are greater chances of cure with little post-treatment disfigurement or functional deficit.

Treatment of head and neck cancers involves a team of cancer specialists. A visit to a dentist or ENT specialist provides one with the opportunity to undergo screening for cancer of the mouth.

This article has been written by Dr.Jyoti Wadhwa, MD (AIIMS), DM (AIIMS), MAMS, Commonwealth Scholar, Director in Department of Medical Oncology, Medanta The Medicity Hospital, Gurgaon.

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