The specter of any type of cancer makes most anyone shiver in fear of being affected. The types of cancers that attack the head and neck include those within the oral cavity, larynx, salivary glands, nose or nasal passages and pharynx are responsible for about three percent of cancer malignancies diagnosed in the United States each year. Classic research reveals that head and neck cancers are more common in men than in women. The most critical risk factors contributing to head and neck cancer diagnoses are tobacco and alcohol consumption. In addition, infections from certain human papillomavirus (HPV) are now being found to account for about half of all cases of oropharyngeal cancers. Standard head and neck cancer treatment includes radiation therapy, surgery and in certain instances, chemotherapy.
Most cancers diagnosed at an early stage are curable and there are various treatment options available including head and neck cancer surgery. Some of the most prevalent risk factors contributing to the incidence of head and neck cancers include the following.
- Tobacco: Tobacco consumption, whether chewable or smokeless, amplify the risk of mouth cancer. Tobacco is chiefly responsible for the cancers found in the oral cavity, hypo pharynx and larynx.
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol for years increases the risk of mouth and throat cancer. Not surprisingly, people who consume both alcohol and tobacco are at a much greater risk of developing head and neck cancers than others.
- Smoking: Long- or short-term smoking of cigars, pipes or cigarette poses a great risk of developing some form of head or neck cancer. Smoking raises the odds of contracting cancers of the mouth, throat and voice box. Holding a cigarette in the mouth for extended periods also increases the risk of lip cancer.
- Radiation and Sunlight: Unprotected exposure to direct sunlight or harmful amount of radiation is a frequent factor cited in head and neck-related cancer statistics. Studies reveal that nearly one out of three people diagnosed with lip cancer are outdoor workers. Skin cancers have an elevated incidence in people with driving occupations such as taxi drivers and long-distance truckers who expose their faces to harsh sunlight without protection.
- Occupational Exposure: Prolonged exposure to synthetic fibers and asbestos has been widely linked with the cancers of head and neck. Workers involved in construction, textile, ceramic, food, metal and logging may have a great risk of cancer of the larynx because of inhaling possibly carcinogenic particles for prolonged periods. Cancer of the nasal cavity and Para-nasal sinuses has also been traced to excessive exposure to nickel, leather dust and wood particles.
- Family History: People with an immediate family history of someone affected with head and neck cancer are highly vulnerable to developing the same type of cancer due to their shared environment.
In every instance, doctors advise a prompt visit to a specialist or a clinic experienced in head and neck cancer treatment, so that this debilitating disease can be cured and controlled at an early stage.
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