The point at which cancer is discovered in the body can make a large impact on successful treatment. However, different types of cancer can be discovered much more easily than others. While many types of cancers form inside the body and are much harder to detect – with the naked eye – there are some that start on the skin or exterior of the body and are easy to see. Having regular check-ups – and being screened for cancer, at the first sign of a problem – will make all the difference.
One cancer grouping that contains both easily visible and difficult to detect cancers is known as “head and neck cancer.” Areas at risk include the skin, lips, inside of the mouth, tongue, nasal cavity and sinuses, the throat, larynx and trachea. While it is natural for such a varied group of cancers to have different causes, there are several risk factors that can greatly increase the chances of several head and neck cancers. Tobacco use and alcohol consumption have been referred to as “the most important risk factors”, especially for the mouth, throat, sinuses, and larynx. As well, human papillomavirus has been known to increase the chances of cancer in the tongue and throat. It is interesting to note that, other than HPV, the majority of risk factors associated with head and neck cancer are lifestyle specific: they are mostly based on consumption.
According to the American Cancer Society, 3%-5% of cancers in the United States are head and neck cancers: accounting for an estimated 52,610 cases in 2012. Five-year survival rates greatly differ; depending on the specific type of cancer and in which stage it was diagnosed, as well as treatment type. To reduce the risk of head and neck cancers, minimizing alcohol and tobacco intake makes the largest difference. Avoiding inhaling the vapour from cleaning products and industrial contaminates from wood/metal processing, textiles/ceramics, and other workplace air-based pollutants can also reduce risk. It is advised to wear protective gear at all times, when working in areas with a chance of inhaling hazardous materials.
OncoSec concentrates on two types of cancers that can be associated with the head and neck: melanoma and carcinoma. While melanoma is generally caused by sun exposure – in this case, oftentimes caused by malignant moles on the face – it is squamous cell carcinoma that often attacks the skin on the face. Not associated with merkel cell carcinoma (different cell type), OncoSec encourages anyone showing signs of possible head and neck cancer to consult their doctor.
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