March is Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month

March is Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month

by Dr. Susan Anderson OPEN UP AND SAY Ahhhhhhh! April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness month. What Is Head and Neck Cancer? As its name implies, head and neck cancer includes cancer of the: Lip, tongue, gums and oral cavity, salivary glands, tonsils, throat (pharynx), voice box (larynx), lymph nodes in the neck, nasal cavity, sinuses and ear. Worldwide, head and neck cancer accounts for more than 550,000 cases and 380,000 deaths annually. In the United States, head and neck cancer accounts for 3 percent of all cancers, with approximately 63,000 Americans developing head and neck cancer annually and 13,000 dying from the disease. The Changing Face of Head and Neck Cancer? Classically, head and neck cancer was found in older patients (typically men in their 60’s and 70’s) who had a significant history of tobacco use. Alcohol and tobacco use are the two most important risk factors for head and neck cancers, especially cancers of the hypopharynx(tissues near the voice box), and larynx. Those who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk of developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone. In the past 10 years there has been a marked shift in the profile of patients being diagnosed with head and neck cancer and the location of the cancer within the head and neck. Patients are younger (35-55 years old) and cancers involve the oropharynx (most commonly the tonsil or base of tongue). Over the past decade, there has with a steady increase of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC) and a decline in cancers of the larynx and hypopharynx....