April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, a time when dental professionals join with surgeons and other medical professionals to highlight the dangers oral cancer brings and call attention to the progress made in fighting this disease.
Head and neck cancer is a group of cancers that usually begin in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces inside the mouth, nose, throat, and occasionally the salivary glands. These squamous cell cancers are often referred to as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck.
Head and neck cancers account for nearly 4 percent of all cancers in the United States, the National Cancer Institute reported. Alcohol and tobacco use are major risk factors for head and neck cancers. Infection with cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV) also increases a person’s risk of specific head and neck cancers.
Other risk factors for these cancers include:
- Eating preserved or salted foods,
- Poor oral hygiene and missing teeth,
- Occupational exposure to wood dust, asbestos, and synthetic fibers,
- Radiation exposure,
- Epstein-Barr virus infection; and
- Asian ancestry, particularly Chinese ancestry.
Head and neck cancer is more common among men than women. These cancers are also diagnosed more often among people over age 50 than among younger people.
Head and neck cancer symptoms may include a lump or a sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice.