Awareness check: what do you know about oral, head and neck cancer?

April 2, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

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ohancawlogoResource post for April

When it comes to cancer news, we almost always hear about breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and cervical cancer (though not exactly in that order). There are, however, other less known but still equally deadly cancers out there. Cancers of the throat, mouth, and neck are usually thought to be rare but they are not. They are actually the 6th most common type of cancer in the US.

April 27 to May 3, 2009 is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week (OHANCAW) sponsored by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA) formerly known as the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Foundation. This week is dedicated to promote awareness about the “other cancers” – oral head and neck cancer (OHNC) also known as oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. A series of events are planned for this occasion.

Facts and figures

Here are some quick facts about OHNC:

Those who had it

  • Bobby Hamilton was a famous cup driver who died from OHNC in 2007. He was a four-time cup winner at NASCAR and won the 2004 Craftsman Truck Series championship. His widow Lori Hamilton is actively campaigning for HNCA. She gave a talk last March 5 to promote the free head & neck cancer screening at NASCAR Sprint Cup.
  • Rod Stewart, is a rock star and singer who suffered from oral camcer (tumor in the thyroid gland) and successfully recovered.
  • Levo Helm is a drummer, singer, and member of  the Band who backed up Bob Dylan in the 60s. He was one of the lucky few who survived throat cancer.


About 60% of cases of OHNC are diagnosed in the very late stages when treatment becomes very difficult. Many health experts believe that early detection through oral screening can reduce mortalities due to OHNC.

Screening is rather quick, easy, and non-invasive.

The American Cancer Society and the American Dental Association both recommend a regular visual exam during which a dentist or trained hygienist should examine the tongue, cheeks, gums, tonsil area, palate, floor of mouth and area behind the teeth. The dentist should also feel the lymph nodes of the neck, where the first visible signs of cancer often emerge… Any knot or abnormality that lasts more than two weeks calls for a closer examination. For example, a red or white patch on the tongue, a change in the voice or a lump on the neck should be evaluated by a physician or dentist.

The HNCA is regularly organizing free OHNC screening. Check their site for screening locations. A series of free screening events are scheduled during the OHANCAW (see below)

Risk factors

The risk factors for OHNC are

  • Tobacco use. While smoking is always linked by many to lung cancer, the majority of OHNC cases are actually linked to tobacco use including smokingsmokeless tobacco.
  • Alcohol consumption
  • A combination of tobacco and alcohol use increases the risk for OHNC drastically.
  • Infection with the human papilloma virus, or HPV is associated with mouth and throat cancer. HPV is the causative agent of genital warts that cause cervical cancer. The virus gets into the mouth through oral sex. 25% of oral cancer cases may be linked to a certain strain of HPV.
  • Cancers of the thyroid can be due to family history or radiation exposure


The most common symptoms of oral cancer are:

Events for OHANCAW

The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance is organizing the following events for Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week:

  • MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2009mouth
    Community Awareness Day
    Community Awareness Campaign
  • TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 2009
    Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Day
    Government Officials Proclamation of Event Around the World
    Community Awareness Campaign
  • WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2009
    Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Survivor Day
    Survivors of Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Reach Out Campaign
    Community Awareness Campaign
  • THURSDAY, APRIL 30, 2009
    Research for Cure & Prevention
    Campaign to improve research for prevention, early diagnosis, and cure of head and neck cancer
    Applications accepted for Year 2007 Research Grants
  • FRIDAY, May 1, 2009
    Free Screening and Rehabilitation Day
    Cancer Survivor’s Reception and Banquet
    Free Screening (contact 843-792-6624 for screening location)
  • SATURDAY, May 2, 2009
    Closing Ceremonies
    5K (3.1 miles) Walk at Hampton Park

Photo credit: stock.xchng


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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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