Experts Update Risk Factors and Urge Sexually Active Adults to Get Free Screening During Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week (OHANCAW)

April 7, 2010

Charleston, S.C., April 7 /PRNewswire/ — Citing the now well-established link between oral human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and cancers of the tongue, throat and tonsils, the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA) has expanded its list of at-risk populations for oral, head and neck cancers to include sexually active adults who engage in common sexual behaviors, such as open-mouth kissing and oral sex. The HNCA is urging all who may be at risk for these cancers to take advantage of free screenings during the 13th annual Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week (OHANCAW), held nationwide April 12-18. To find a free screening site near you, go to www.OHANCAW.com.

According to a recent study conducted by the University of Maryland, HPV is responsible for 50 percent of cancers of the throat, which account for half of all oral cancers. In addition, research conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that individuals who have engaged in oral sex with more than five partners are 250 percent more likely to have throat cancer than those who do not practice oral sex. The American Cancer Society estimates that there are approximately 30,000 new oral cancer cases per year.

“Oral, head and neck cancer is no longer a disease primarily of older patients, related to tobacco and alcohol use,” said Kevin Cullen, MD, Director, Greenebaum Cancer Center and Professor of Medicine, University of Maryland. “The bad news is that HPV-positive oral cancer has increased among adults of all ages. The silver lining here is that HPV-positive cancers of the head and neck are more responsive to chemotherapy and radiation treatment and have dramatically better prognoses than HPV-negative cancers, which underscores the importance of early detection.”

An estimated 8,000 people die from oral cancers each year, or about one death per hour, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“When diagnosed early, oral and other head and neck cancers can be more easily treated without significant complications and the chances of survival greatly increase, especially for patients with HPV-related oral cancers,” said Terry Day, M.D., President of the HNCA, Professor and Clinical Vice Chairman Director, Division of Head and Neck Oncologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina. “However, many Americans do not recognize the symptoms of these cancers, which makes screening very important. For this reason, we are encouraging everyone to take advantage of the free, quick and painless screenings that could save their life.”

In addition to oral HPV infection, tobacco and alcohol use can increase the risk for cancers of the oral cavity, head and neck. Limiting consumption of these products is the most effective prevention strategy and can decrease the likelihood of getting these cancers.

During this year’s OHANCAW, nearly 200 sites nationally and internationally will offer free oral, head and neck cancer screenings to the public. For more information about OHANCAW, the free screenings and other activities, visit www.OHANCAW.com.

About Oral, Head & Neck Cancer

Oral, head & neck cancer (OHNC) refers to a variety of cancers that develop in the head and neck region, such as: the oral cavity (mouth); the pharynx (throat); paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity; the larynx (voice box); thyroid and salivary glands; the skin of the face and neck; and the lymph nodes in the neck.

Common warning signs of OHNC are:

  • Red or white patch in the mouth that lasts more than two weeks
  • Change in voice or hoarseness that lasts more than two weeks
  • Sore throat that does not subside
  • Pain or swelling in the mouth or neck that does not subside
  • Lump in the neck

Other warning signs that occur during later stages of the disease include:

  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing

About Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week

Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week (OHANCAW), coordinated by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, is a week in April annually dedicated to educating the public about these potentially life-threatening but highly treatable cancers, and to promoting prevention, screening and early detection. For more information, please visit the OHANCAW website at www.OHANCAW.com.

Funding for the OHANCAW free screenings was provided by Bristol-Myers Squibb and ImClone Systems, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Eli Lilly and Company.

About the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance

The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA) was established in 2008 to create a coalition in the fight against head and neck cancer. Formerly the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation, HNCA expands on existing strengths to enhance the overall effort in prevention, detection, treatment and rehabilitation. Our mission focuses on six key areas:

  • Public awareness
  • Professional engagement
  • Research
  • Advocacy
  • Survivorship
  • Resources development

The HNCA seeks to enable an organized and strategic alliance of all stakeholders to dramatically shift the stage of discovery of head and neck cancers through united and collaborative efforts in prevention, early detection and research. Its mission involves:

  • Providing support to head and neck cancer patients throughout the year
  • Supporting ongoing research in head and neck oncology
  • Educating children and adults in the disease process, treatment and prevention of head and neck cancer

    Media Contact:
    Jennifer McGuire or Alanna Jamieson
    MCS Healthcare Public Relations on behalf of the Head and Neck Cancer
     Alliance (HNCA)
    (800) 477-9626

SOURCE Head and Neck Cancer Alliance

Source: newswire

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