Are You at Risk for Head and Neck Cancer?

Are You at Risk for Head and Neck Cancer?

When you’re facing head and neck cancer, our team at Petoskey Ear, Nose & Throat Specialists works closely with you and your cancer care team throughout all stages of your treatment.

But our commitment to your overall health and well-being begins long before your diagnosis. To that end, we’re happy to provide information about head and neck cancer and what increases your risk of developing it.

What is head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancers occur in the:

Despite their location, cancers affecting the brain, eyes, esophagus, thyroid gland, and skin of the head, face, and throat are not classified as head and neck cancers.

Most head and neck cancers occur in the squamous cells lining the mucosal membranes of the mouth, throat, voice box, and other areas and are classified as squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck.

Cancers developing in the glands, sinuses, and muscles of the head and neck are rarer than squamous cell cancer and often present as a lump or swelling in front of the ear or neck.

What are the symptoms of head and neck cancer?

Symptoms of head and neck cancer can vary and often depend on the location of the cancer, but may include:

Notably, these symptoms are also caused by other less serious conditions such as a cold or viral throat infection.

It’s important, however, to check in with a specialist if your symptoms persist or don’t respond to treatment as expected. If you’re at increased risk of developing head and neck cancer, we recommend you seek specialty care sooner rather than later.

What increases my risk of head and neck cancer?

Excessive alcohol intake and/or tobacco use that may include smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, or use of smokeless tobacco greatly increases your risk of developing head and neck cancer. The risks become even greater when you combine these habits.

Other factors that increase your risk include:

Note that individuals of Asian descent, especially those with Chinese ancestry, are at greater risk of developing nasopharyngeal cancer.  

While you can’t change your family history or ancestry, you can help prevent head and neck cancer by stopping smoking and cutting back on your alcohol intake. If you’re under age 26, you might also consider getting the HPV vaccine.

If you’re concerned about head and neck cancer, schedule an evaluation at one of our offices in Petoskey, Gaylord, or St. Ignace, Michigan. Early diagnosis and treatment offer the best chance for a cure.

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