Head and Neck Cancer Prevention
WellStar supports scientific research that shows certain lifestyle choices can lower a person’s risk of some cancers, including head and neck cancer. The single most important behavior to avoid is smoking, which is implicated in up to 30 different kinds of cancer. Some studies indicate that as many as 85% of head and neck cancers are caused by smoking and smokeless tobacco. WellStar supports smoking cessation programs and will endeavor to help patients who want to stop smoking,– or stop using smokeless tobacco, through a variety of cessation efforts. Different approaches work for different people, and WellStar experts can help tailor a cessation program that will enhance your likelihood successfully quitting.
Tests and Screenings for Head and Neck Cancer
There are no screening tests, like mammography for breast cancer, to detect head and neck cancer. There are, however, many symptoms that may lead your WellStar physician to order certain diagnostic tests to determine if you have head and neck cancer. The type of tests will depend on the symptom or symptoms you present. If, for example, you have a sore in your mouth that will not go away, your WellStar physician may perform a biopsy of that lesion. If you have had difficulty swallowing for several weeks or have a persistent sore throat, your WellStar physician will perform a physical examination to look for enlarged lymph nodes. He/she may also use a small mirror or light to examine your throat and nasal cavities. Also, your WellStar physician may recommend a procedure called an endoscopy, in which a lighted tube is inserted into your mouth to view your larynx, esophagus or nose to determine if any suspicious lumps exist. During the endoscopy, tissue from any suspicious lump or mass is extracted and examined to see if cancer is present. You will be mildly sedated during an endoscopy to minimize pain and discomfort. You may also have X-rays and other imaging tests, such as an MRI or a CT or PET scan, to look for masses inside your body.