By Laura Bourdeanu, NP, PhD
National Oral, Head and Neck cancer Awareness week is coming this April (12th-18th) and it is better to know what these cancers are and what symptoms are associated with them. You may be able to safeguard your family from these cancers when you are aware of them. But what are they exactly?
Oral Cancers May start off as a small persistent growth or sore in the mouth that is not going away. They may affect the lips, cheeks, tongue, sinuses and even the throat. You or someone you love could die if the cancer is not caught early and left to its own devices. Smoking or non-smoking tobacco is invariably one of the pertinent causes of oral cancers. Additionally, use of tobaccoa��including chewing tobacco, smoking cigars, cigarettes, snuff, etc. a�� alcohol, chewing betel quid/leaf or paan which puts those who do so at risk. Certain strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) put an individual at risk of oral cancer. Alcohol is another risk factor in oral cancers, as even occasional drinkers have been known to have an increased risk of oral cancer.
The cancers grouped into the neck and head cancer category can start off in the squamous cells located in the inside the throat, nose, mouth floor and side walls (near the teeth). There is little distinction between oral and head/neck cancers because they are interlinked. These cancers can affect the larynx (voice box), and throat (pharynx). The throat is divided into 3 parts: the nasopharynx or top of the nose where it starts, oropharynx where the tonsils and the base of the tongue are located, and the hypopharynx or the part of the pharynx in the neck. Furthermore, nasal cavity and salivary glands can also be affected by cancer. What puts one at risk of these cancers is the consumptions of certain a�?culturala�? foods like matA� and paan, foods with artificial preservatives and too much salt (processed/branded chips), exposure to too much sunlight, people exposed to metal and wood particles from their jobs at construction or repair etc.
Oral Cancers and Cancers of the head and neck may have painful symptoms. These may include a sharp pain in the ears, bleeding from the mouth, and the appearance of white and red patches in the mouth may be cancerous growths or sores. You may feel a certain lump in your throat or numbness in the throat that appears and disappears suddenly and frequently. You may start to have sore throats more often and hoarseness in your voice that wasna��t there before and doesna��t feel natural. Persistent sores on the inside of the mouth may appear which may indicate that you have cancer. Frequent headaches and pain when chewing or swallowing may be a sign that there is a cancerous growth somewhere in your head, or neck.