This Issue

Head and neck cancer

Effective treatments require early diagnosis

Tobacco and alcohol: A dangerous combination

Keeping children on a safe path

Helpful Resources

Q & A

A closer look

Signs and symptoms

The following symptoms do not always indicate cancer; an infection or other problem can cause similar warning signs. If they persist, however — more than two weeks — have them checked out.

  • Sore throat

  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing or chewing

  • Prolonged changes in your voice, such as hoarseness

  • Ear pain or an earache that does not go away

  • A sore in your mouth or on your lip that does not heal

  • Unusual white or red patches inside your mouth or on your lips

  • Swelling in the neck or jaw

  • A lump in the neck

  • Dentures that no longer fit properly or comfortably

  • Bleeding in the mouth

  • A feeling that something is caught in your throat

Signs and symptoms

Helpful Resources:

A closer look

Head and neck cancer – although not well known – strikes around 40,000 people each year. Head and neck cancer actually refers to cancers at several different sites:

• Lips

• Gums

• Tongue

• Lining of the cheeks

• Salivary glands

• Roof and floor of the mouth
• Lymph nodes in upper neck

• Tonsils

• Sinuses

• Pharynx (throat)

• Nasal cavity

• Larynx (voice box)

Image: National Cancer Institute

A peak inside

Risk factors

Another good reason to visit the dentist

Get screened for head
and neck

Disturbing disparities

Risk factors
• Tobacco use

• Heavy alcohol use

• Combined tobacco and
alcohol use

• HPV infection
• Sun (cancer of the lip)

• Exposure to chemicals,
such as asbestos

• Poor diet — lacking in
fruits and vegetables
Another good reason to visit the dentist

“All you have to do is open your mouth.”

— The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance

The oral cancer examination is painless and quick … and life-saving. When cancers of the head and neck are found early, the cure rate is high. Annual screenings by a doctor or dentist should be a part of your regular physical or dental checkup. The provider:

• Inspects your face, neck, lips and mouth.

• Feels the area under your jaw and the sides of your neck, checking for unusual lumps.

• Asks you to stick out your tongue to check for swelling, color and texture.

• Using gauze, lifts your tongue and pulls it from one side, then the other.

• Checks the roof and floor of your mouth and the back of your throat.

• Feels and examines the insides of your lips and cheeks for red or white patches.

• Places one finger on the floor of your mouth and, with the other hand under your chin, presses down to check for unusual lumps or sensitivity.

Source: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Oral, Head and Neck Cancer
Awareness Week is May 8 – 14.

Photo by Vannessa Carrington/Mass. Eye and Ear

Get screened for head and neck
cancer. It’s free, quick and painless.

Boston Medical Center
Moakley Building Lobby
830 Harrison Avenue
Date: April 2
Time: 8 a.m. - noon

Tufts Medical Center
860 Washington Street
Date: May 12
Time: 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Mass Eye and Ear
243 Charles Street
Date: May 13
Time: TBA
Dedham Family Dental
Dr. Helaine Smith
30 Milton Street, Dedham
Date: May 11
Time: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Mass General Hospital
Voice Center

One Bowdoin Square,
11th Floor
Date: May 13
Time: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Remember to call ahead to confirm
time and date
of screenings.

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Keeping children on a safe path

Wondering how to keep children from starting to drink or smoke? Start young — preferably before your child experiments with either one — to build a sturdy foundation.

• Talk to a school guidance counselor or your child’s doctor about free, helpful programs for parents on guiding healthy behaviors.

• Brainstorm with your child about ways to say no to risky behavior. Aim for a full scale of options between “No, thanks” and “Stop asking — I said no.”

• Discuss good reasons not to drink or smoke. Ask children what they think and share your beliefs and values. Talk honestly about relatives who had health problems or died due to tobacco or alcohol addictions. Problems like bad breath, yellow teeth and embarrassing behavior may be persuasive, too.

• Set expectations for healthy behaviors. Use simple rewards and consequences to encourage good behavior.

• Set an example. If necessary, try to quit smoking or drinking too much.

• Keep lines of communication open. Check in regularly about how the day went. Ask about plans, friends and activities.

• Call your child’s doctor or guidance counselor for more help if you think your child is smoking or drinking.

A closer look

Head and neck cancer – although not well known – strikes around 40,000 people each year. More

Get Screened

Disturbing disparities

Although the incidence rates of oral cancer are comparable in black and white men, the death rates are more than 70 percent higher in blacks than whites.

Source: Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results Program
National Cancer Institute

Head and neck cancer

To her credit, Susan Curry didn’t scream when she learned she had cancer.

She became very quiet, almost bewildered, as the doctor described how the disease had invaded her gums, the roof of her mouth and sinuses. It even crept into the base of her skull where countless delicate nerves and blood vessels travel to the brain. More

Effective treatments require early diagnosis

Willia Goins, 70, now speaks in a whisper.

She had her larynx, or voice box, removed about 14 years ago, and the whisper is as loud as it gets. Goins might speak quietly, but her message comes through loud and clear. More

Tobacco and alcohol: A dangerous combination

What is head and neck cancer?

Cancer cells have glitches that keep them alive long past their normal lifespan. The rogue cells multiply again and again, snowballing into a tumor. Over time, they invade nearby tissue, crowding out normal cells. More

Oral Cancer: What African American Men Need to Know

Source:National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

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