27 July, World Head and Neck Cancer Day: causes and symptoms of head and neck cancers

Head and neck cancers affect 30 areas of the head and neck and, in our country, affect around 10,000 patients each year

They are therefore rather common neoplasms that, if diagnosed early, are successfully cured in about 80-90% of cases – a rather high percentage.

Often, however, the symptoms of head and neck cancer are not taken into account in time by patients, who seek specialist advice only when the disease has already progressed

An advanced head and neck neoplasm is more complex to treat and the mortality rate within five years rises to 60% in such cases.

This is why it is essential to keep the focus on these diseases and to inform the public about the main symptoms and risk factors.

What are the causes of head and neck cancers?

Neoplasms of the head and neck develop in most cases from uncontrolled proliferation of squamous cells in the throat, larynx, pharynx, mouth, tongue, lips, nasal cavities and paranasal sinuses, but can also affect the salivary glands and thyroid gland.

The main risk factors when it comes to head and neck neoplasms are alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking and the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) virus.

Continuous trauma of the mucous membranes of the oral cavity and tongue caused by teeth can also cause the development of a neoplasm.

Head and neck cancers usually affect male patients over the age of 40, but are also on the increase among women and young people.

One cause of this increase can be found in changing social mores and lifestyle.

Neoplasms of the head and neck: the most common symptoms of these cancers

The delay in the diagnosis of head and neck cancers is often caused by the very nature of the symptoms, which are confused by patients with simple ailments that do not cause concern.

The most common signs and symptoms of head and neck neoplasms are in fact ulcers and white or red spots in the mouth, pain in the throat and tongue, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the neck, a feeling of a one-sided stuffy nose or nosebleeds.

How, then, to distinguish a simple malaise from a more relevant symptom?

If the symptom persists for more than three weeks, a referral should be made to an ENT specialist, who will assess the symptoms during the examination and, if necessary, indicate which further tests should be performed.

27 July: World Head and Neck Cancer Day

On 27 July 2022 the ninth edition of World Head and Neck Cancer Day will be held, a day dedicated to cancers of the head and neck region to raise awareness of these diseases and which will include discussion and information events in 65 Italian cities and 50 countries worldwide.

Correct information, in fact, is fundamental to allow access to early diagnosis and to intervene on the tumour while it is still in its early stages.

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