Early diagnosis can be a key component to giving you a fighting chance against the various types of head and neck cancer. There are many physical symptoms to look for when recognizing the signs of oral cancer aside from more commonly known warning signs such as a lump in the throat, mouth sores, and swelling of the jaw. These often mimic less serious conditions such as headaches, coughing, vocal changes, and a sore throat. Some also report ear pain, loss of hearing, or a ringing in the ears.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Factors found to put you at a greater risk for oropharyngeal cancer include poor nutrition, using tobacco products, sunlight exposure (particularly in cases of lip cancer), alcohol abuse, radiation exposure (usually from a previous treatment) and HPV.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Oral Cancer
It is believed that at least 75% of head and neck cancers are linked to tobacco and alcohol use. Abstaining from using these substances can drastically decrease your risk, but it is also important to realize that genetics play an important role in the way that our immune system reacts and so some will be more genetically predisposed to cancer than others.
HPV and Oral Cancer
Another large factor causing oropharyngeal cancer (involving areas such as the back of the throat, tongue, and tonsils) is the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Doctors have recently found that somewhere between 50-70% of oral cancers are caused by HPV, which doesn’t show symptoms in those it infects until much later according to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance. Although there is a vaccination for this virus, there is currently no cure. There are nearly two hundred strains of it, and it is estimated that somewhere between nine and fifteen are cancer causing. About fourteen million people become newly infected each year and most sexually active men and women will contract at least one type of HPV at some point in their lifetime.
While studies now show that HPV now accounts for about 70% of oropharyngeal cancer, many cancers are believed to be a caused by a combination of using tobacco and alcohol as well.
In any case, early detection is the key to leaving yourself open to the best possible outcome. Call us at to schedule a screening today!