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Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week

Southeast Radiation Oncology Center - Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Our local cancer care experts at Southeast Radiation Oncology Center have put together this quick guide on what you need to know about Oral, Head and Neck cancers, from risk factors and how to catch the early warning signs to treatment options. Awareness is one of the best weapons that we have when it comes to combating these cancers, since catching them early can potentially improve the effectiveness of treatment and increase the chances that patients can be cured. We encourage you to share this guide with your friends, family, and personal networks to continue to spread awareness about oral, head, and neck cancers and potentially help save a life.

Oral, Head and Neck Cancer By The Numbers

Worldwide, over 550,000 patients are diagnosed with some form of oral, head, and neck cancer each year on average. Narrow that down to cases in just the United States, and you have about 110,000 that will be diagnosed within this year, making up about 6% of the total number of cancer cases in the U.S. As common as these cancers are, the current rate of people getting regular screenings is fairly low, with a recent survey showing that 71% of Americans have not been screened for oral, head, or neck cancer. At the same time, about 66% of cases for these cancers are in stage 3 or 4 by the time they are discovered, despite many head and neck cancer cases being preventable if caught early.

What Are The Risk Factors For Oral, Head, & Neck Cancer?

The cause of oral, head, and neck cancer varies for each patient; there are numerous risk factors that could potentially contribute to the development of these cancers. Some of the most notable known risk factors for developing oral, head, and neck cancer include:

  • Tobacco - Smokers are approximately 15 times more likely to develop oral, head, and neck cancers compared to non-smokers. About 85% of diagnosed cases for these cancers can be linked back to some form of tobacco use.
  • Alcohol - Those who drink large amounts of alcohol or drink on a frequent basis have a higher chance of developing cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus.
  • HPV (Human Papillomavirus) - HPV is a group of viruses that cause a growth called a papilloma. Often transferred and contracted through sexual activity, HPV has been linked to increased risk for developing oral, head, and neck cancers.
  • Gender - Oral, head, and neck cancers are about 2 to 3 times more common in men than women, however, this may be linked to the higher average alcohol consumption and tobacco usage rates for men.
  • Poor Diet & Exercise Habits - Vitamin deficiencies or other diseases linked to poor diet and exercise could be linked to increased risk for developing oral, head, and neck cancer.
  • Age - Since these cancers take years to develop past the precancerous stages, they are less common in young people, with most cases being found in patients over the age of 65. It is estimated that risk for developing these cancers increases once one passes the age of 40.

Why To Get Screened & How To Schedule One

When oral, head, or neck cancers are discovered early, patients can seek out treatment or take preventative measures sooner, which can help manage symptoms, improve cure rates, or increase the effectiveness of treatment. While early warning signs vary depending on the type of cancer and its location, there are certain cases where patients show no symptoms, making a cancer screening the most reliable and effective option for identifying cancer early.

To get screened for oral, head, or neck cancer, contact your doctor or your local cancer care center to be connected with someone who will be able to schedule a screening for you or direct you to where you can get one. For those who are at a higher risk of developing these types of cancers, it may be recommended that you schedule more frequent screenings.

Resources to Learn More About Oral, Head, & Neck Cancer

The more you know about oral, head, and neck cancers, the more prepared you will be in the case that you, a family member, or a friend are diagnosed. If you would like to know more about these cancers, the common symptoms, early warning signs, treatment options, and more, visit our head and neck cancer resources page.

Help Save Lives By Spreading Awareness!

At Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, our goal is to not only provide patients that are currently battling cancer with professional radiation therapy, but also work to spread awareness and function as a reliable information resources about the various types of cancer, including oral, head, and neck cancers. If you have any questions about these types of cancer, contact us and a member of our team will be happy to assist you and provide you with the information you need.


At Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, we know that cancer patients are best served by being treated in close proximity to a support network of family and friends. We offer patients in Southeast Alaska the ability to receive state-of-the-art radiation therapy without the burden of traveling great distances away from home.The information presented on this website is provided to allow our patients to gain more knowledge about our center, our staff, and our services.