April is National Head and Neck Cancer Awareness month, and the perfect opportunity to discuss potential symptoms and share prevention tactics for this type of cancer. Head and neck cancer is actually quite broad when we look specifically at where this type of cancer can occur. It refers to cancer anywhere in the head or neck area, including the larynx, throat, mouth salivary glands, lips, nasal cavity or sinuses.
Oral cancer can affect nearly any area of the mouth, including the lips. Symptoms of oral cancer include: swelling of the jaw; unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth; and a red or white patch on the gums, tongue, or the lining of the mouth. You may be at a greater risk of developing oral cancer if you use tobacco or consume alcohol. Poor oral hygiene can also lead to oral cancer.
This type of cancer affects the pharynx, which starts behind the nose and leads to the esophagus. Signs that you may have pharyngeal cancer include: ringing in the ears, frequent headaches, consistent pain in the neck or throat, trouble breathing or speaking, trouble hearing, and pain when swallowing. Alcohol and tobacco use place you at a greater risk for developing pharyngeal cancer as well. Those of Asian ancestry, namely Chinese, are at a higher risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.
Laryngeal cancer affects the larynx, commonly known as the voicebox, and is characterized by severe pain when swallowing or pain in the ears. Again, alcohol or tobacco use put you at a greater risk for developing this type of cancer. Risk factors also include exposure to asbestos and synthetic fibers. Thus, professionals in the metal, textile, food, logging,ceramic and construction industries may be at a higher risk of developing cancer in their larynx.
Paranasal Sinuses and Nasal Cavity Cancer
Cancer affecting the area surrounding the nose and thehollow space inside the nose fall into this category. Typically, if sinuses are consistently blocked and do not clear, or you experience chronic sinus infections, you should visit your physician as soon as possible, as these are symptoms of this type of cancer. Other symptoms include: frequent headaches, recurring nosebleeds, swelling of the eyes, and pain in the upper set of teeth. Paranasal sinus and nasal cavity cancer most commonly affect those with regular exposure to wood or nickel dust or formaldehyde.
Salivary Gland Cancer
Cancer affecting the area near the jawbone and the floor of the mouth are categorized as salivary gland cancer. Symptoms include: paralysis or numbness of muscles in the face, facial pain, chronic pain in the chin or neck, and swelling under the chin and around the jawbone. Avoiding radiation to the neck and head is the best prevention technique against salivary gland cancer.