Head and neck cancer affects the mouth, larynx (voicebox), pharynx (throat), nose and sinuses and salivary glands.
What causes it?
Tobacco smoking and chewing increases your chance of getting head and neck cancer by between four and 34 times depending on how much tobacco is taken. Heavy smokers have the highest risk.
Alcohol, especially spirits, when taken above the recommended safe amounts leads to an increased risk of up to five times for head and neck cancer.
Smoking and drinking together have an even greater risk of causing head and neck cancer than each risk alone.
What are the signs?
It depends on where the cancer is affecting as to what signs of cancer will show.
All of the cancers can cause lumps, either in the neck (called neck nodes or lymph nodes) or at the site of the cancer.
Any of the following lasting three weeks of more could be a sign of head and neck cancer:
- Pain in the mouth or throat either when eating or all of the time
- An ulcer which does not go away
- Difficulty swallowing (food or drink won’t go down)
- Pain into the side of the head or ear which doesn’t go away
- Constant hoarseness of voice
- Breathing becoming more difficult or noisy
- Bringing up blood from your mouth or throat
- Red or white patches or lumps in your mouth or throat
If you experience these signs, then go to your doctor who will send you to the hospital for assessment.