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Prevention & Screening

Knowing your risk factors.

Cancers of the head and neck include oral cancers or oropharyngeal cancers (cancers involving the base of the tongue, the tonsils, the soft palate and the walls of the pharynx), laryngeal cancer, thyroid cancer, and parotid and salivary gland cancer. Understanding the risk factors, reducing any of the controllable risks and getting screened are the best ways to prevent cancer or find it through early detection.

Risk factors vary depending on the type of head or neck cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, the most significant risk factors, particularly for oral cancers, are alcohol and tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco. At least 75% of head and neck cancers are caused by alcohol and tobacco use, and people who use both products are at a greater risk of developing cancer than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.

Another risk factor for certain types of head and neck cancers—largely oropharyngeal cancers—is infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). The National Cancer Institute reports that the number of oropharyngeal cancers caused by HPV infection is increasing in the United States.

What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of head and neck cancers vary according to the type of cancer. The following are some of the most common symptoms:
  • Sore throat or pain in the neck that does not go away
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lump or sore that does not heal
  • White or red patches on the gums, tongue or lining of the mouth
  • Swelling of the jaw or pain in the mouth
  • Pain in the upper teeth or problems with dentures
  • Unusual bleeding or coughing up blood
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Persistent earaches
  • Bleeding through the nose

Our ENT surgical team is here to help you improve your odds of preventing cancer through proper screenings and the best available treatments. To learn more about diagnosis and treatment options for head and neck cancers or to see the full list of conditions we routinely treat, visit our Diagnosis & Treatment page.

If you would like to arrange a screening or non-urgent appointment with one of our otolaryngologist or ENT surgeons, please contact us today.