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Head and Neck

What is head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancer are a group of cancers that start in the throat, sinuses, nasal cavity, lips, mouth, or larynx. They often spread to the lymph nodes of the neck and usually this is the first and sometimes only sign of the disease at the time of diagnosis.

Head and Neck Cancer Symptoms

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lump or sore that doesn’t heal
  • Hoarseness in the voice
  • Swelling under the chin and/or around jawbone
  • Pain/ringing in the ears

Head and Neck Cancer Causes

  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • HPV 16 and HPV 18 – HPV is often associated with cervical cancer, however, there is a strong link between HPV infection and head and neck cancer
  • Betel Quid and Gutka
  • Radiation Exposure – a history of radiation to the head and neck increases the risk of salivary gland cancer and thyroid cancer
  • Age – most people diagnosed with mouth cancer are over 40, the average age of diagnosis is 60. However, people diagnosed with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer tend to be younger
  • Ultraviolet light – skin and lip cancer are more common in people who spend time in the sun and tanning beds
  • Other risk factors:
    • Diet low in fruits and vegetables
    • Diet high in salt cured fish and meat
    • Diagnosis of Plummer-Vinson syndrome
    • Exposure to Epstein-Barr virus
    • Asian ancestry
    • Drinking yerba mate, South American caffeinated drink
    • Poor oral hygiene
    • Workplace exposure to inhalants such as asbestos, wood dust, nickel alloy dust, and silica dust
    • GERD
    • Weakened immune system
    • Graft versus host disease – often occurs after a stem cell transplant
    • Certain genetic syndromes such as Faconia anemia and dyskeratosis congenital