Head and neck cancer awareness

06 September 2018

This September 17 -21 is European Head & Neck Cancer awareness week. In the following article Mr Karan Kapoor, consultant ENT surgeon explains more about the condition and signs to look out for. Nearly 600,000 people every year in the UK are diagnosed with cancer, that’s one every two minutes. 32 people per day in the UK are diagnosed with Head & Neck Cancer.

Why should I care?

Head and neck cancer doesn’t have a good survival rate, unless it is found early. If you find and treat it quickly there is up to 80-90% chance of cure. However, one of the biggest challenges is that most people ignore the symptoms and present late, where the cure rates drop to 30-40%. This is why awareness and empowering patients is so important.

So, what should I be worried about?

Its about awareness of symptoms.  Symptoms which persist are more concerning. So if you have any one of the following for more than three weeks you need to be professionally assessed.

  • Sore tongue, non-healing mouth ulcers and/or red or white patches in the mouth.
  • Pain in the throat
  • Persistent hoarseness
  • Painful and/or difficulty swallowing
  • Lump in the neck
  • Blocked nose on one side and/or bloody discharge from the nose.

Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk?

Yes, there are several ways to minimise the chance of getting diagnosed. It is estimated that up to 88% of Head & Neck Cancers are preventable. (Cancer Research)

Smoking: This is the single most important thing you should avoid. A person who smokes will be 15 times more likely to develop head and neck cancer than a non-smoker.

Alcohol: Drinking alcohol does increase your risk, especially if your drinking over the national guidelines. The more you drink the higher the risk

HPV: The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is associated with multiple types of cancer ranging from Cervical, Rectal and Head & Neck Cancer. Unfortunately, the number of people diagnosed with this has been going up. There is a vaccine which has been successful in reducing the risk of HPV related Cervical cancer.

So, what should I do?

Number one, don’t worry. You are now more aware and hence are already reducing your risks. Be aware of symptoms, and then talk to any health professional should you be worried. We are here to help.

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