Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week runs from April 7-14, and it’s as good a time to learn about the different ways that you can keep these deadly cancers at bay. The CDC says that over 53,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer alone over the course of this year. The CDC also says that, on average, one person will die from it every hour of every day of the year. Combined, there will be 650,000 new cases of all three types in the United States alone. It doesn’t have to be this way, and there are ways you can keep it from happening to you.
Maintain a Healthier Lifestyle
85% of oral, head and neck cancers come from either smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. Quitting smoking is always a good idea, and it’ll help reduce the risk of an early death from these types of cancers. As for alcohol, there’s no problem with an occasional drink, but you should cut down to one drink a day for normal circumstances.
Cut Down on Sun Exposure
Believe it or not, many oral cancers come from too much exposure to the sun. This is especially true of lip cancers. Lip cancers tend to affect men more than women, and they also tend to affect men whose professions keep them outside for long periods of time such as construction workers. If you can’t avoid being outside, then you should protect your lips by wearing a sunscreen lip balm. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is also a good idea when it’s possible.
Don’t Forget to Floss
Oral cancers can also be caused by bad oral hygiene. The solution to this is simple. All you have to do is remember to brush your teeth at least twice a day and try to floss after every meal. Not only will this provide you with the obvious benefits of healthier teeth and gums, but it can also reduce the risk of some types of gum or jaw cancers.
Get the HPV Shot
In recent years, as we’ve learned more about human papillomavirus or HPV, we’ve learned that HPV can cause head and neck cancers among people who have the virus whilst having oral sex. The best solution to this is to get the HPV vaccine. Although it’s now standard for most children, some older people don’t have it. It’s recommended for men under age 21 or women under age 26.
Know the Signs
If you suspect you have one of these cancers, you should know the most likely symptoms.
• Unusual voice changes
• A sore throat that lasts two weeks or more
• Lesions in the mouth that don’t heal
• Unusual lumps in the neck
• Pain or difficulty swallowing
If you’re exhibiting these symptoms, then contact your doctor for referral to a specialist as soon as you can.