The Cancer Council Australia is warning men to start taking head and neck cancer seriously, following more than 4,900 people being diagnosed with the cancer last year.
Teaming up with Beyond Five, the two organisations are raising awareness on an array of deadly cancers that can impact the mouth, tongue, salivary glands, throat and tonsils. These cancers can really impact a person’s identity but due to a lack of awareness, many Australians are diagnosed late. This means they require life-changing surgery and therapy that can impact their lives forever.
Symptoms vary from person to person but may include a lump or a sore that does not heal, swelling, bleeding, trouble speaking, pain or numbness, a hoarse voice, trouble breathing or even difficulty chewing or swallowing.
“If you do develop these symptoms you should get them checked out by your doctor without delay,” Cancer Council CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda said in a statement. “Head and neck cancers are three times more common in men and males make up around 70 percent of those diagnosed each year, so it’s particularly important that our male population be aware of the signs and symptoms and act quickly if they notice something unusual.”
At present, Beyond Five is Australia’s only dedicated head and neck cancer charity, with many Australians failing to understand what causes or contributes to head and neck cancers.
“The majority of preventable head and neck cancer cases are caused by tobacco and alcohol. Other risk factors include poor nutrition and oral hygiene,” Radiation Oncologist and Director of Beyond Five Dr Puma Sundaresan said. “However, many Australians may not be aware that some types of head and neck cancer are caused by the human papilloma virus, so even if you don’t smoke or drink to excess, you could be at risk.”
The human papilloma virus causes around 70 per cent of oropharyngeal cancers, which occur in the tonsils and the base of tongue. Around 700 Australians are set to be diagnosed with this type of cancer in 2018 alone, while 490 will be the result of the human papilloma virus.
The HPV vaccination, which is known to reduce the impact of cervical cancer, also has potential benefits for other cancer types. Because there is no evidence-based screening methods for throat and neck cancers related to HPV, it’s important for men to be aware of symptoms and to seek medical advice as soon as possible.
“For those affected, it’s important to remember support is available,” Professor Aranda added. “Cancer Council support teams are available to talk on 13 11 20 or to learn more about head and neck cancer visit beyondfive.org.au.”