Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week/Oral Cancer Awareness Month


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Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week is April 7-14, 2019 and April is also Oral Cancer Awareness Month.

Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness week is led by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and supported by the American Academy of Otolaryngology.  Although screenings are promoted and supported throughout the year, extra efforts are made to encourage providers to host community screenings during this week.
Some quick facts about Head and Neck Cancer:

  • Head and neck cancer accounts for 3-4% of all cancers in the United States, largely affecting people over the age of 50, and oral cancers account for about 85% of these.  Squamous cell cancers, arising in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces inside the mouth, nose and throat, are the most prevalent.
  • The fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, non-smoking individuals, driven by HPV viral infection.
  • Oral Cancer awareness in the American public is low.
  • Risk factors include:  
    • Alcohol and tobacco use, including chewing tobacco and snuff
    • HPV and Epstein Barr viruses
    • Preserved/salted foods
    • Some occupational exposures (wood dust, nickel dust, formaldehyde, etc.)
    • Radiation exposure
    • Genetics
  • The 5 year survival rate is approximately 57%, not significantly improved over decades.  Although this cancer is not particularly difficult to discover or diagnose, it is routinely discovered in late stages.
  • Initial screenings are very low tech (visual inspections of the oral cavity, palpation of lymph nodes in the neck), and could be an easy addition to the screening programs required for Commission on Cancer accreditation.   
  • Check to see if your state or county has a high incidence compared to the national or state average.  
  • Interested in learning more?  The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery website has links to “How to Host a Screening”.  They also offer a link to “Screening Locations” for those interested in screening opportunities.
American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
Oral Cancer Foundation
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