Alert for prevention and early diagnosis of head and neck cancer – Health

image with focus on the neck
Contrary to what happens in other organs, when cancer affects the head and neck region, the disease can be visible or palpable. (photo: LUM3N/Pixabay)

The Brazilian Head and Neck Cancer Group (GBCP), alluding to the Green July, month of awareness about cancer that affects the head and neck region, launches the campaign “Signs that can change histories”, with actions that seek the involvement of society, the press, managers and health professionals, opinion formers and educators so that the maximum number of people, of all age groups, get to know the disease and know about the causes, symptoms, how to prevent it and how to do self-examination to identify suspicious changes. Contrary to what happens in other organs, when cancer affects the head and neck region, the disease can be visible or palpable. Despite this, the signs are not noticed in most cases. In Brazil, eight out of 10 cases of cancer that affect, for example, the oral cavity, are discovered at an advanced stage.

As a consequence, late diagnosis results in a lower chance of disease control, worse quality of life for the patient, higher morbidity and mortality rates, higher risk of mutilation due to the need for more extensive surgeries, greater complexity of other treatment modalities. and greater demand for facial reconstruction, as well as more challenges in patient rehabilitation.

The mission with the campaign will directly contribute to the dissemination of differentiated information about the disease, risk factors and symptoms. “In addition to pointing out which signs we should all be aware of, we are going to warn about the association of these tumors with smoking, alcohol consumption and infection by the HPV virus. Always with didactic, referenced and qualified content, with language accessible to all”, says clinical oncologist Thiago Bueno de Oliveira, president of the GBCP.

Also read: Cancer Survivors: Less Grudge and More Willingness.

Signs that can change stories

The “Signs that can change stories” campaign brings to this Green July a special program of content on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of different tumors that affect the head and neck region: oral cavity (mouth, lips, tongue, gums, floor of the mouth and palate), sinuses (maxillary, frontal, ethmoid and sphenoid), pharynx (nasopharynx (behind the nasal cavity), oropharynx (where the tonsil and base of the tongue are located) and hypopharynx (end of the pharynx, near the beginning of the esophagus), in addition to the larynx (supraglottis, glottis and subglottis), salivary glands and thyroid gland.
The other meetings will be a conversation circle: the experience of those who have had head and neck cancer (7/7); how to avoid head and neck cancer (7/14); the importance of multidisciplinary treatment for head and neck cancer (7/21) and the patient’s quality of life after treatment for head and neck cancer (7/28).

Another highlight of the campaign is the special series with stories of patients who have gone through the disease, explaining how a sign changed the lives of each one of them.

What are the warning signs of head and neck cancer

  1. Mouth sore that does not heal (most common symptom)
  2. Mouth pain that does not go away (also very common, but in later stages)
  3. Persistent lump or thickening in the cheek
  4. red or white area on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
  5. Throat irritation or feeling like something is stuck or stuck in the throat
  6. Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  7. Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
  8. Numbness of the tongue or other area of ​​the mouth
  9. Swelling of the jaw that causes the denture or denture to miss or become uncomfortable
  10. Teeth that become loose or soft in the gums or pain around the teeth or jaw
  11. voice changes
  12. Enlarged nodules or nodes in the neck
  13. Weight loss
  14. persistent bad breath
It is worth mentioning that the existence of any of the signs and symptoms may suggest the existence of cancer, and it is up to the physician to assess the need to order other tests to confirm or not the diagnosis.

Also read: How to be a cancer survivor?

Many of these signs and symptoms can be caused by other types of cancer or by benign conditions. It is important to consult your doctor or dentist if any of these symptoms persist for more than two weeks. The earlier the diagnosis is made and treatment started, the greater the chances of success:

Head and neck cancer in Brazil and in the world

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC/WHO) points out that more than 1.5 million new cases of head and neck cancer are expected in the world in 2022, thus being the fifth most prevalent cancer. Considering all types of tumors that affect the head and neck region, there are more than 460,000 annual deaths.

In Brazil, the most common types of head and neck cancer are those of the oral cavity and larynx in men and thyroid cancer in women.

Risk factors are known and the disease is preventable

Unlike many types of cancer, in which the main etiologies (causes) are not known, the main risk factors for developing head and neck cancer are well established: not smoking, avoiding alcohol consumption and preventing the virus. HPV, measure for which there are vaccines in the public and private health network, for the immunization of boys.

There is, therefore, a common factor in head and neck tumors: they are preventable. To be more exact, about 40% of cases can be avoided.

How to prevent yourself?

  • do not smoke
  • Do not consume alcoholic beverages in excess
  • Vaccinate against Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Do oral hygiene correctly
  • Use sunscreen, including on your lips.
Since January 2017, the Ministry of Health (MS) has offered protection for boys against the HPV virus. This measure is in addition to the immunization that has been taking place since 2014 in girls. HPV vaccines protect against the two subtypes of the virus most associated with cancer. These oncogenic HPVs – 16 and 18 – are also prevalent in head and neck tumors, mainly of the oropharynx.

“Everyone’s contribution to this cause is very important. Together, we can amplify and build a solid information base that breaks down the unknown and generates transformation. We want correct and up-to-date information about head and neck cancer to reach all health professionals and the population in general”, emphasizes the GBCP president, Thiago Bueno.

Why is early diagnosis so important?

Data on oral cavity and larynx cancer from the SEER survey, from the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), indicate that 86.3% of patients are alive five years after treatment when the tumor was initial, located only in the organ. When the disease spreads to the lymph nodes, the five-year survival rate drops to 69%. With distant disease (metastasis) the rate is 40.4%.

Screening for the diagnosis of oral cavity cancer begins in primary health care, through the clinical (visual) examination during consultation or during consultation with the dentist. Confirmation of this diagnosis depends on the biopsy. This procedure, in most cases, can be done on an outpatient basis, with local anesthesia, by a trained professional. The analysis of the material removed in biopsy is performed by the pathologist, responsible for defining the subtype and degree of aggressiveness.
Some imaging tests, such as computed tomography, also help in the diagnosis, and, mainly, help to assess the extent of the tumor. The clinical examination associated with biopsy, with the study of the lesion by tomography (in the indicated cases) allow the surgeon to define the appropriate treatment. Very early lesions can be evaluated without the need for imaging at first.

green july campaign data
Campaign %u201CSigns that can change stories%u201D warns about head and neck cancer (photo: Green July/Reproduction)

In Brazil, 8 out of 10 cases of cancer that affect, for example, the oral cavity, are discovered at an advanced stage. (photo: Green July/Reproduction)

Green July alert for campaign
The mission with the campaign will directly contribute to the dissemination of differentiated information about the disease, risk factors and symptoms (photo: Green July/Reproduction)

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About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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