THERE is an increase of head and neck cancers and specialists have been trying to find the root causes and it has been established that the victims of such have been users and abusers of drugs, alcohol and substances of abuse and tobacco.
Alcohol, drugs and tobacco use (including smokeless tobacco, sometimes called “chewing tobacco” or “snuff”) are the two most important risk factors for head and neck cancers, especially cancers of the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx, and larynx. At least 75% of head and neck cancers are caused by tobacco, drugs and alcohol use. People who use drugs, tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk of developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone. Tobacco and alcohol use are not risk factors for salivary gland cancers.
The symptoms of head and neck cancers may include a lump or a sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty in swallowing, and a change or hoarseness in the voice. These symptoms may also be caused by other, less serious conditions. It is important to check with a doctor or dentist about any of these symptoms. Symptoms that may affect specific areas of the head and neck include the following:
Oral cavity, a white or red patch on the gums, the tongue, or the lining of the mouth; a swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable; and unusual bleeding or pain in the mouth.
Pharynx pain, trouble breathing or speaking; pain when swallowing; pain in the neck or the throat that does not go away; frequent headaches, pain, or ringing in the ears; or trouble hearing.
Larynx pain when swallowing or ear pain.
Para nasal sinuses and nasal cavity. Sinuses that are blocked and do not clear; chronic sinus infections that do not respond to treatment with antibiotics; bleeding through the nose; frequent headaches, swelling or other trouble with the eyes; pain in the upper teeth; or problems with dentures.
Salivary glands. Swelling under the chin or around the jawbone, numbness or paralysis of the muscles in the face, or pain in the face, the chin, or the neck that does not go away.
Next time you want to use or abuse any substance be mindful of the health effects.
– Mthandazo Ndlovu is a drug prevention and rehabilitation specialist, addictions counsellor, adolescent counsellor and professional counsellor. For more information and help call or whatsapp 00263772399734 or email [email protected] and join the Rechabites in building drug-free and healthy communities.