World Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Day takes place on 27 July every year and is the perfect opportunity to learn more about this type of cancer.
Read our article to understand more about the awareness day, recognise the signs of head and neck cancer and know how your dentist can help.
About World Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Day
World Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Day is organised by the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncologic Societies.
It aims to spread awareness of head and neck cancers and understand the impact this type of disease has on patients and their loved ones.
Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, and in New Zealand, cases are increasing every year.
But it’s not all bad news. If head and neck cancer is detected and treated early, it can be cured in some cases.
You can participate in Head and Neck Cancer World Awareness Day by sharing messages about the disease on social media or holding an awareness or fundraising event at your workplace or in your community.
What is head and neck cancer?
The term “head and neck cancer” refers to any cancer that originates in the lymph nodes or tissue in the head and neck.
These types of cancer include:
- Mouth (oral) cancer
- Nose (nasal) or paranasal sinus cancer
- Salivary gland (parotid gland) cancer
- Throat (oropharyngeal) cancer
- Voice box (laryngeal) cancer
What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer?
The symptoms of head and neck cancer vary according to which type is present. These are some of the signs of head and neck cancers:
- A growth or inflamed patch inside your mouth
- A lump in your neck
- Difficulty breathing or speaking
- Pain or difficulty swallowing
- Chronic sinus infections
What are the causes of head and neck cancer?
There are several risk factors for head and neck cancer:
- Alcohol and tobacco consumption, particularly if you use both types of products, or using smokeless tobacco in practices like chewing paan
- Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Exposure to asbestos
- Exposure to radiation
- Epstein-Barr virus infection
- Chinese ancestry, which is associated with a higher risk for nasopharyngeal cancer
- Genetic disorders such as Fanconi anaemia
How can my dentist help?
Your dentist has an essential role in checking for head and neck cancers like mouth cancer.
When you go for a check-up, they will take a good look inside your mouth and look out for any abnormalities like ulcers, sores, swelling or red or white patches.
They may also feel the tissues inside your mouth to check for lumps, bumps or abnormalities.
Your dentist may also feel your throat and neck to detect any lumps.
If they find anything of concern, they may ask you to return in a few weeks’ time to check if the suspicious area has changed at all or order a biopsy to remove cells for checking in the lab. They may do this themself or refer you to an oral cancer specialist.
Be aware on World Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Day
It’s always good to know what to look for when it comes to cancer symptoms. After all, the earlier you detect a problem, the sooner it can be treated.
But you don’t have to do this alone. Your dentist will know the signs to look for when it comes to mouth cancer and will help you get the right treatment if necessary.
So if you’re due a dental check-up, be sure to book one soon — it’s not just about your teeth but your overall health and well-being too!