Tobacco (smoked or smokeless) is the most important risk factor. It contains 29 types of cancer-causing chemicals.
Smoked tobacco includes beedi, cigarettes, hookah, chillum, etc. Reverse chutta smoking includes smoking with the burnt end inside the mouth, and is prevalent in some parts of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
Smokeless tobacco includes betel quid (paan), zarda, gutkha , khaini, mawa , gudakhu, etc. Cancer usually occurs in the mouth in those places where betel quid is kept for a long period of time.
The other risk factors for cancer of head and neck include consumption of alcohol, advancing age, and infection with Human Papilloma Virus. The latter leads to cancer of the oropharynx (base of the tongue or tonsils), mainly in young people who are non-smokers and non-alcoholics.
Tobacco is the most important risk factor for head and neck cancer
The other risk factors include consumption of alcohol and infection with Human Papilloma Virus.
April 8-15 is celebrated as Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week.
Since tobacco is the most common risk factor for this category of cancer, large-scale awareness is necessary.
Patients may present with mouth pain or non-healing mouth ulcers, loosening of teeth, difficulty in swallowing solid and liquid food, weight loss, and bleeding.
If a patient exhibits swelling in the neck, it usually suggests advanced-stage cancer.
Patients with laryngeal cancer present with hoarseness of voice.
Nasopharyngeal cancer and cancer of sinuses present with bleeding from the nose.
What steps should be taken to prevent head and neck cancer?
Since tobacco is the most important risk factor, the first step is to avoid the consumption of tobacco in any form. Further, people should be educated about the harms of using tobacco.
Visual inspection of the mouth should be carried out in high-risk individuals to detect pre-cancerous lesions.