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Incidence of Head and Neck Cancer on the Rise

Cedars-Sinai Cancer and the Department of Surgery recently offered free head and neck cancer screenings

“Head and neck cancers can affect almost anyone, not just those who smoke or drink heavily,” said Allen S. Ho, MD, director of the Head and Neck Cancer Program at Cedars-Sinai. “And often times, symptoms aren’t obvious, so patients could be diagnosed at an advanced stage.”

According to the American Cancer Society, each year almost 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer, which often appears in the nasal cavity, sinuses, lips, mouth, salivary glands, thyroid glands, throat and larynx.

Rates of head and neck cancer have risen in part due to human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV causes normal cells in the back of the throat to turn abnormal, and in most cases, the body can fight off the infection.

“When the body cannot fight off the virus, HPV can lead to throat cancer,” said Ho.

Symptoms for HPV-related throat cancer may include a persistent sore throat, hoarseness, enlarged lymph nodes and pain when swallowing, although many people are asymptomatic. The HPV vaccine in those 13 to 45 years old provides protection from infection and cancer later in life.

Symptoms for other head and neck cancers may include a neck lump, persistent sore throat, hoarseness, pain when swallowing or unexplained weight loss. Risk factors for head and neck cancers include human papilloma virus (HPV), tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Lifestyle and Cancer: Understanding the Connection