We now have a vaccine for this virus and it is recommended that teenagers receive the vaccine to reduce their risk of head and neck cancer in the future.
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Each year, more than 55,000 Americans will develop cancer of the head and neck (most of which is preventable); nearly 13,000 of them will die from it.
Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of these deaths. In the United States, up to 200,000 people die each year from smoking-related illnesses. The good news is that this figure has decreased over time due to more and more Americans quitting smoking. The bad news is that some of these smokers switched to smokeless or spit tobacco, assuming it is a safe alternative. This is untrue. By doing so, they are only changing the site of the cancer risk from their lungs to their mouths. While lung cancer cases are decreasing, cancers in the head and neck are increasing. Head and neck cancers are curable if caught early. Fortunately, most of them produce early symptoms. You should know the potential warning signs so you can alert your doctor as soon as possible. Remember, successful treatment of head and neck cancer depends on early detection. Knowing and recognizing its signs can save your life.
Symptoms of head and neck cancer include:
- A lump in the neck
- Change in the voice
- A growth in the mouth
- Bringing up blood
- Swallowing problems
- Changes in the skin
- Persistent earache
Many cancers of the head and neck can be cured, especially if they are found early. Although eliminating the cancer is the primary goal of treatment, preserving the function of the nearby nerves, organs, and tissues is also very important. When planning treatment, doctors consider how treatment might affect a person’s quality of life, such as how a person feels, looks, talks, eats, and breathes.
Overall, the main treatment options are surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Surgery or radiation therapy by themselves or a combination of these treatments may be part of a person’s treatment plan.