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6 Risk Factors for Head and Neck Cancer

6 Risk Factors for Head and Neck Cancer

Of all the conditions that may affect you in your life, cancer is by far one of the scariest. Although many types of cancer are treatable, there are not many that have a true cure. Head and neck cancers are just two forms of cancer that may cause irreversible effects if not caught early. 

Our team at Hunterdon Hematology Oncology, LLC helps you when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. If it’s head and neck cancer or another form, our expert team of oncologists and hematologists give you the treatment — and the care — you desperately need.

Cancers that affect your head and neck

Cancer can affect just about any part of your body, including your head and neck. They’re caused by cells that change (mutate) and grow out of control, forming masses called tumors.

When mutated cells grow in your head or neck, it may affect your throat, nose, and mouth. Your salivary glands and sinuses may also be involved. But what’s considered cancer of your head and neck? Here are some examples:

Cancer may also affect your sinuses, and is called paranasal sinus cancer. Head and neck cancers lead to several different symptoms. Knowing these symptoms may help you identify the cancer early, making it more likely to be treatable.

Symptoms to watch out for

The scary thing about cancer is it sometimes hits without real warning. One day you might be fine, and the next you notice something different. Head and neck cancers are like this as well. 

The symptoms of these types of cancer are based on which part of your head or neck is affected. Whether it’s your throat or your nose, there are signs to look out for, including:

Some of these signs can also be symptoms of less severe conditions like allergies or the common cold. But if you have more than one of these symptoms, or they don’t get better with conservative treatment, you should seek help at our facility as soon as possible.

But what if you could avoid these symptoms all together? Knowing what puts you at risk for head and neck cancers helps you lower your chances of this condition.

Are you at risk?

Head and neck cancers don’t just happen on their own — they’re sometimes caused by other factors that can be controlled. Although not all risk factors are controllable, knowing the ones that are help you avoid head and neck cancer altogether.

Here are six common risk factors for head and neck cancer:

1. Prolonged tobacco use

This is the number one cause of head and neck cancer. In fact, it’s linked to at least 85% of all types of head and neck cancers. Tobacco isn’t just cigarettes; it includes pipe tobacco, cigars, and chewing tobacco. Secondhand smoke also contributes to this disease.

2. Heavy alcohol consumption

Drinking large amounts of alcohol, or drinking alcohol frequently, greatly increases your risk of cancers like esophageal cancer or oropharyngeal cancer.

3. Exposure to the sun

Frequent exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays without protection may lead to skin cancer, especially on your lips. However, it may also cause skin cancer in the area of your head and neck.

4. Exposure to HPV

The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is linked to certain types of head and neck cancer, especially in your mouth and throat. This is considered a sexually transmitted disease, but can be prevented through the vaccine. 

5. Male gender

Men are much more likely, at least 2 to 3 times, to develop head and neck cancers than women. However, if you have other risk factors, gender may not matter as much.

6. Epstein Barr virus

This virus is best known for causing mononucleosis, also called mono. If you contract this virus, your risk of getting nasopharyngeal cancer is greatly increased.

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms or are worried about your risk of head and neck cancers, call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-788-6461 to schedule an appointment with one of our amazing doctors today.

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