The 27th of July has been declared World Head and Neck Cancer Day by the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncology Societies. To mark this day the GHA is launching an awareness campaign.
Head and Neck cancer is a group of cancers that usually begin in the squamous cells that line the mucosal surfaces inside the mouth, nose, throat. Occasionally cancers can start in the salivary glands. Head and neck cancers account for nearly 4% of all cancers.
While alcohol, smoking and tobacco use are still major risk factors, the fastest-growing group of oral cancer patients are young, healthy, non-smoking individuals. This is due to a connection between Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is common in the population, and oropharyngeal cancer. With greater awareness of the signs and symptoms to look out for, many of these cases are preventable, as professional involvement and public awareness is the only way to stop the virus from spreading.
How can head and neck cancer be detected?
The symptoms of head and neck cancers include a lump or a sore that does not heal, a persistent sore throat, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice. These symptoms may also be caused by other less serious conditions. Seeking medical consultation provides an opportunity to undergo timely screening, especially for those at high risk of the disease.
Early detection of head and neck cancer improves treatment and outcomes.
How can it be prevented?
- Smoking, drinking alcohol and HPV infection all increase the risk of developing head and neck cancer.
- Protect your mouth and body by adopting good oral hygiene habits, eating a healthy diet, which is low in sugar and high in fruits and vegetables, quitting tobacco use and avoiding alcohol for cancer prevention.
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers the HPV vaccine to be extremely safe. All first year boys and girls in second level schools are encouraged to get the HPV vaccination.
Head and Neck Consultant Surgeon and Director of Cancer Services for Gibraltar, Miss Catherine Spinou, said: “The GHA Head and Neck Services have undergone a complete reform in the last two years with Her Majesty’s Government’s investment in a new Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department”.
The team has worked throughout the pandemic to support colleagues in the acute setting, but also to keep the cancer pathways open. The team have established strong links with the Royal Marsden Hospital whom they collaborate in all aspects of the service.
The Minster for Health, the Hon Samantha Sacramento MP said: “Raising awareness is key in highlighting the potential and serious risks of Head and Neck cancer. It is important to take the advice of our medical professionals who do an excellent job in this field already”.