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Oral/Head and Neck Cancer

Oral and head and neck cancer (OHNC) is a term for a number of cancers that develop in the head and neck region, including the oral cavity, pharynx, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, larynx, thyroid, salivary glands, skin of the face and neck, and lymph nodes in the neck. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 60,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancers of the head and neck region each year, and more than 12,000 will die. Warning signs of these cancers include a swelling or lump in the throat or neck, mouth or throat pain that does not subside, red or white sores in the mouth that do not heal, bleeding in the mouth or throat, change in voice, ear pain, and numbness of the tongue, mouth, or lip. Treatment is primarily surgical, but radiation and/or chemotherapy may also be used. Side effects related to radiation therapy can be lessened with the use of Ethyol (amifostine), an agent that reduces damage to the salivary glands and resultant dry mouth. The most effective preventive measure for oral cancer is cessation of tobacco use and excessive alcohol use.

(Source: GDA Action, Vol. 24, No. 4, 2004)

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