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The 5 W's on Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer and How to Spread Awareness

(Apr 2nd 2019)

George Harrison, Michael Douglas, and Sigmund Freud are infamous legends in their own respects. George Harrison with music, Michael Douglas with movie acting, and Sigmund Freud with his mind.

 Burgundy and white ribbon represents oral head and neck cancer awareness.

But besides infamy, they all have one unfortunate thing in common - they all had some form of Oral, Head, and Neck cancer.

Next week is Oral, Head, and Neck cancer awareness week, and to prepare, here are the 5 W’s of Oral, Head and Neck cancer and how you can spread awareness.

What is Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer?

Head and Neck cancer is unique in that this cancer begins in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces of the head and neck area (inside the mouth, nose, and throat). (1) They can also begin in the salivary glands, though this is uncommon.

Head and neck cancer are categorized by the area of the head or neck in which they begin. These are the areas they can originate from:

  • Oral cavity

  • Pharynx

  • Paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity

  • Salivary glands

Who Can Get Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer?

Anyone. There are many reasons why, but the two main major risk factors are alcohol and tobacco use. At least 75% of head and neck cancers are caused by these two substances, and there is a greater risk for those who consume both rather than just one. (2)

For example, Sigmund Freud smoked cigars up to 20 times a day!

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted disease, is also a major factor into getting oral, head, or neck cancer. About 70% of cancers in the oropharynx are linked to HPV. (3)

When to Treat Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer?

The time to treat oral, head, and neck cancer is as soon as possible. The best time to go see a doctor is with early detection or around the time when symptoms start to appear. Here are the symptoms that coincide with Oral, Head, and Neck cancer: (4)

 A woman that has oral head and neck cancer.

  • A lump or sore throat that does not heal

  • A consistent sore throat

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • A change or hoarseness in voice

Specific areas include: (5)

Oral: A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or the lining of the mouth; swelling of the jaw that affects dentures, and unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth.

Pharynx: Trouble breathing or speaking, pain when swallowing, consistent neck/throat pain; frequent headaches, pain, or ringing in the ears; or trouble hearing.

Larynx: Pain when swallowing or ear pain.

Salivary glands: Swelling under chin or jaw, numbness or paralysis of the face muscles, or pain in the face, chin, or neck that doesn’t go away.

Paranasal sinuses/nasal cavity: Blocked sinuses, chronic sinus infections, nose bleeds, frequent headaches, swelling of eyes or other eye issues, pain in upper teeth, or problems with dentures.

Where to Go For Treatment?

The best place to go for treatments are hospitals and clinics. These two establishments are where you can begin treatment. From there, you can start a treatment plan.

Every treatment plan is dependent on the type of cancer: where the tumor is, the stage of the cancer, and the person’s age and health. Once the doctor knows these factors he or she can decide whether or not if you need surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of all of the above. (6)

Clinical trials are also recommended for cancer patients. Talk to a doctor if you or a loved one is interested in a clinical trial. You can call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER for information about clinical trials on head and neck cancer. (7)

Why Should You Care?

According to research, approximately 53,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, equating to 132 new people every day. (8)

The need for prevention is higher than ever. There are many different ways to decrease your chance for cancer: (9)

  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit. Even smokeless tobacco products.

  • Limit alcohol consumption.

  • If you are 26 years old or younger, talk to your doctor about HPV vaccines. These vaccines were developed to prevent cervical and other genital cancers. HPV vaccines also may prevent some kinds of head and neck cancer.

  • Use prevention during oral sex.

  • Use SPF lip balm, wear a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors, and avoid indoor tanning.

  • Checkup with your dentist regularly.

How to Spread Awareness on Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer

April 7th - 13th is Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness week. There are many ways to help spread awareness, but here are the best five ways:

Spread the Word Online:

Join us online in the quest to spread oral, head, and neck awareness. Tweet, post, and share across multiple social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This allows even the biggest messages to be short, sweet, and to the point.

Join a Group:

Joining groups like Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, The Oral Cancer Foundation, and SPOHNC, Support for People with Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer are great ways to connect with others.

Schedule a Screening Event:

Screening events are a great way to participate during awareness week. Hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities host these events for men, women, and children so they can check up on their oral, head, and neck health.

Write:

Correspond with your community! Creating monthly newsletters on types of cancers can also help with spreading the word this coming week.

Fundraise:

burgundy wristband for oral head and neck cancer awareness wristband

Donating money and/or raising money for organizations and charity groups provides more resources and tools to help increase awareness. Don’t be afraid to contact others to help raise money for your cause.

Order Merchandise:

Passing out merchandise has never been easier in terms of spreading awareness. Wearing Oral, Head, and Neck awareness wristbands from Rapid Wristbands can be a great way to create conversation. The color of wristband for this cancer is burgundy and ivory. Click here to fill out a form to order.

Final Thoughts

For just a small area of the body, cancer can still affect it a substantial amount. No matter who you are, it’s important to be aware of the horrors it can cause and to strike when stricken.

As Michael Douglas once said: “Like a soldier, I prepared for battle...And it was my job to toughen up and get ready for the treatment and later on for my recovery and that is what I was able to do.” (9)

Resources:

What is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer (1)

Major Risk Factors (2)

Cancers Associated with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) (3)

Symptoms (4)

Specific Areas (5)

Where To Go For Treatment (6)

Clinical Trials (7)

Why Should You Care (8)

Prevention (9)

Michael Douglas Shares His Experience With Stage IV Oropharyngeal Cancer (10)


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