Heads up!

The Department of Health (DOH), in collaboration with the Philippine Society of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, observes Head and Neck Consciousness Week! Based on Presidential Proclamation 1676, it aims to raise public awareness about head and neck cancers (which includes the oral cavity, nasopharynx, larynx, and thyroid), as well as to promote prevention, screening, and optimal treatment.

Risk Factors for Head and Neck Cancer

Smoking and alcohol consumption are major risk factors for head and neck cancer. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco, snuff, or betel quid) have been linked to the majority of head and neck cancers. Drinking any type of alcohol, such as beer, wine, or liquor, increases the risk of developing mouth, throat, and voice box cancers.

Screening for Head and Neck Cancers

Currently, there is no evidence that routine screening for head and neck cancer proves beneficial for the general population. However, it is important to identify and manage risk factors as early as possible with the help of your doctor. A detailed medical history, physical examination of the head and neck area, family history and exposure to certain viruses are essential to dictate whether imaging modalities are warranted. The most common imaging procedures requested are Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and endoscopy. It is also important to do self-monitoring and schedule an appointment with your doctor if you present with any of these most common symptoms:

• Lump in the nose, neck, or throat

• Persistent sore throat

• Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

• Unexplained weight loss

• Frequent coughing

• Change in voice or hoarseness

• Ear pain or trouble hearing

• Recurrent headaches

• Nasal obstruction or chronic congestion

• Nasal bleeds on a regular basis or unusual discharge

• Breathing difficulties

Treatment for head and neck cancer depends on the location, stage and the general health status of the patient. Most common treatment modalities include surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. Furthermore, treatment requires a holistic, personalized approach to help patients stay strong and maintain their quality of life. Examples of supportive care include nutritional support, pain management, and oncologic rehabilitation.

Consult with a specialist doctor from Medgate when you experience headaches that are hard to tolerate, speech problems, and weakness or numbness in the body. We are here to help you manage these risk factors to make your health head over heels.