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Living Well

Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Screening Saves Lives

Last updated: Apr 10, 2013

If you are healthy, you probably haven’t given much thought to cancers of the mouth, throat, head, and neck. But do you know that exposure to a common virus and other toxins have increased rates for cancers of the head, neck, and oral cavity in recent years?

What is oral, head, and neck cancer?

Oral, head, and neck cancer comprises malignant tumors of the mouth, throat, and neck, including the:

  • Area behind the nose
  • Back and lower part of the throat
  • Floor and roof of the mouth
  • Gums
  • Lining inside the cheeks
  • Lips and lining inside the lips
  • Tongue
  • Tonsils
  • Voice box

According to 2013 data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, more than 30,000 new cases of mouth and throat cancer are diagnosed each year. Of those diagnosed, more than 8000 people die from the disease.

Although rates of mouth, head, and neck cancer are rising in women, more men than women get the disease. It is more common in people age 40 years and older.


Head and neck cancer can be successfully treated
if it's found early!


Other risks for oral, head, and neck cancers include:

  • Smoking tobacco in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes
  • Smoking marijuana
  • Using chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks per day for men and more than 1 drink per day for women)
  • Exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Second-hand smoke exposure
  • Frequent sunburns and excessive exposure to the sun
  • Exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Exposure to toxic inhaled environmental and occupational hazards such as asbestos, wood dust, paint fumes, and other chemicals
  • Poor nutrition, namely a diet low in vitamins A and B
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), especially if it is untreated
  • Laryngopharyngeal reflux disease (LPRD), especially if it is untreated
  • A weak immune system

Symptoms of mouth, head, and neck cancer include:

  • Changes in skin color and skin texture
    Skin cancer is the most common head and neck cancer. Visit our skin cancer page to learn more about skin cancer symptoms!
  • A growth, sore, or swelling in the mouth
    Many mouth and tongue cancers cause long-lasting sores and swelling in the mouth
  • Vocal changes
    Many cancers in the voice box (or larynx) can change the sound and feel of the voice
  • Difficulty swallowing
    Throat and esophageal cancer can make it difficult to swallow food and liquid
  • A lump or lumps in the neck
    Cancers of the head and neck often spread to the lymph nodes in the neck
  • Chronic earache, facial pain, or jaw pain
    Ongoing pain in or around the ear, especially when you swallow, can be a sign of a throat tumor

See your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Areas on your skin that grow or change shape and color, ooze fluid or blood, and crust or clot over, and then ooze or bleed again
  • Sores in the mouth that do not heal
  • Hoarseness or vocal changes that last more than 2 weeks
  • Swelling in the mouth that does not resolve
  • Lumps in your neck that last more than 2 weeks
  • Persistent ear pain, jaw pain, or facial pain
  • Problems with swallowing

For more information or to schedule 
your screening for oral, head, and neck cancer,
call Summit Medical Group Head and Neck Surgery today
at 908-273-4300.