Awareness on head and neck cancers is lacking in India

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

Tobacco remains one of the leading causes of oral cancers

New Delhi, 27 July 2018: Recent statistics indicate that oropharyngeal cancer constitutes about 10% of all head and neck cancers in India. About 20% of these cancers in India and 75% in the West can be attributed to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Tobacco remains the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer in the country.

Of late, the HPV infection has been recognized to play a major role in the pathogenesis of certain types of head and neck cancers. Having unprotected oral sex and having multiple partners are attributed as two of the main reasons for these. In this light, vaccination against HPV assumes a lot of significance.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Head and neck cancers accounts for more than 550,000 cases annually worldwide. There is a 5- to 25-fold increased risk of these cancers in heavy cigarette smokers, and in those who smoke pipe and cigar as well.Oral HPV occurs when a virus enters the body, usually through a cut or small tear inside of the mouth often through having oral sex. Oropharyngeal cancer starts in the oropharynx. This is the part of the throat just behind the mouth. Most cancers that form here are a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. But other types of cancer, and other benign growths and tumors, can also form.”

Some signs and symptoms of oropharyngeal cancers include a sore in the mouth that doesn’t heal; pain in the mouth;a lump or thickening in the cheek; a white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth; sore throat or a feeling of something stuck in the throat; trouble chewing or swallowing, or moving the jaw and tongue; numbness of the tongue or other areas of the mouth; loosening of the teeth or pain around the teeth or jaw; voice changes; lump or mass in the neck; weight loss; and constant bad breath.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Vaccination against HPV involves getting three shots over six months. All three shots for the vaccine are to be taken for it to be effective. The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine that can protect you from HPV-related diseases. You can get the vaccine up until age 26.In a recent study, oral HPV infections were said to be 88% lower among young adults who received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine. These vaccines help prevent oropharyngeal cancers linked to HPV.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Prevent STIs by practicing safe sex, like using condoms every time you have sex.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.
  • Talk to your sexual partners about sex, asking them about the most recent time they’ve been tested for STIs.
  • If you’re sexually active, you should be tested regularly for STIs.
  • If you’re with an unfamiliar partner, avoid oral sex.
  • When having oral sex, use dental dams or condoms to prevent any oral STIs.
  • In your six-month checkups at the dentist, ask them to search your mouth for anything abnormal, especially if you have oral sex often.
  • Make it a habit to search your mouth for any abnormalities once per month.
  • Get vaccinated.