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The majority of head and neck cancers originate inside the mouth, nose, and throat (squamous cells lining the mucosal surfaces of the head and neck region). Squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck are the most common kind of cancer in India due to unhealthy lifestyles and practices. Head and neck cancer is gradually emerging as a major health problem in India, constituting a third of the cancer cases in India. Mainly due to the distinct risk factors, food habits, and personal and family health.
Tobacco use is the biggest risk factor for head and neck cancer. About 85 percent of these cancers are linked to tobacco use. The risk for this cancer in smokers is approximately 10 times higher than that of non-smokers. New head and neck cancer diagnoses are associated with tobacco and alcohol use. Quitting tobacco and regular screening can reduce the cancer risk.
Head and neck cancer is more common among males than females. However, due to lifestyle changes, we are noticing that young females are getting addicted to smoking and consumption of other tobacco related products. Therefore, the rising trend shows women at the risk of developing this type of cancer.
Most of the head and neck cancer cases are among the underprivileged section of the society. Poverty, illiteracy, advanced stage cancers, lack of access to healthcare and poor treatment infrastructure pose a major challenge in the management of these cancers. Ninety percent of the oral cancer patients in rural areas belong to the lower middle socio-economic class, and around 3.6 percent below the poverty line.
Although most of the people notice symptoms of head and neck cancer at an early stage, they ignore or do not report them with the fear of surgery and the resultant disfigurement of the face. Unfortunately, in such cases, the cancer finally reaches the advanced stage, where a cure may not be possible.
Nowadays, all modalities of cancer treatment such as surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, are highly advanced and sophisticated. If patients approach the oncologists early and are diagnosed in an early stage, their lives can be saved after the treatment. The advances in plastic surgery along with cancer treatments can help achieve excellent cosmetic outcomes.
Newer forms of radiation methods such as IMRT/IGRT reduce side effects of the treatment. Effective and less toxic chemotherapy, certainly add to the higher cure rates achieved in recent times. It is important that patients should opt for cancer treatment at an earliest.