Head and neck carcinoma is now the sixth most common cancer worldwide.1 There are over 500,000 cases and 200,000 head and neck cancer-related deaths globally each year.1 In New Zealand, cases continue to increase with approximately 576 new cases in 2018.2
“The good news is that many of these patients can be cured if they are treated early enough3 which is why World Head and Neck Cancer Day on July 27 is such an important initiative,” says Mr Rajan Patel.
“The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of head and neck cancers amongst the public and health professionals, and help patients access the services they need at an earlier stage of disease.”
Head and neck cancer is a relatively common cancer worldwide, and typically affects men more than women - particularly those aged 50 and over.
“There are several risk factors including UV or sun exposure (which relates primarily to skin cancer and melanoma), smoking, heavy alcohol intake, and human papillomavirus (HPV),” says Mr Rajan Patel.
“HPV exposure is increasing dramatically, and unfortunately we are seeing a corresponding increase in the incidence of throat cancer - particularly over the past two decades.”
Presenting symptoms and signs associated with head and neck cancer are common, and include a sore throat or a change in voice. However, a very small number of these patients would go on to have a sinister head and neck cancer diagnosis.
“Without the necessary equipment it is difficult for a GP to make an accurate diagnosis, which is why we have specialists at MercyAscot Head and Neck who are able to do this for patients presenting with red flag symptoms. If in doubt, we highly recommend you make a referral so that we can provide specialised care for your patient.”