Medical Minute: Head and neck cancer preventitive care

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Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 9:26 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - What are some common head and neck cancers to be aware of and look out for and start talking about?

“So, I’d say one of the more common types would be skin cancers. And those are still technically head neck cancers, but that cancer and melanoma and basil cancer, what most people say head neck cancer, what they usually thinking about are the ones in mouth and throughout areas,” said Avera Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist Dr. Chad Spanos.

“Overall, head neck cancer is relatively stable, but there is a subdivision cancer that is increasing dramatically, and that’s the type that is called HPV or human pap virus. So that type has been going up, the other kinds that are related to smoking to drinking depending on which part of the country you’re in are flat or slightly decreasing,” said Dr. Spanos.

What are some of the major risk factors for these cancers?

“We know there are some genetic components but usually not as strong an irritant as breast cancer. Many of them, smoking and extensive alcohol use can contribute,” said Dr. Spanos.

Is there anything you can do that is preventative? What are the main takeaways from head and neck cancers?

“Preventative, the main thing, and this also works for luing cancers and many other cancers, is if you have any ability to stop smoking talk to your primary care physician there are many treatments out there not. So very well-validated treatments with coaching. That’s a big one. Alcohol use, I usually recommend people try to limit 14 drinks a week or less. Cut off of risk factors we see with head neck cancer,” said Dr. Spanos.

“The main theme I would say to the adults in the audience who might notice a lump on their neck or have some throat pain or notice a lump in the throat when they’re swallowing,” said Dr. Spanos.

“Our general rule is if you have had something for a few weeks and it hasn’t gone away, it’s cancer until proven otherwise. Most infections don’t smolder along that long and if you have something lasting a while, you need to see your doctor start the recovery process,” said Dr. Spanos.

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