Cancers of the head and neck cause over 2,700 deaths per year in England and Wales

Cancers of the head and neck cause over 2,700 deaths per year in England and Wales. Smoking and drinking cause most cancers of the mouth, lip and tongue (oral cavity), throat and voice box.

Heavy drinkers who are also heavy smokers have over 35 times the risk of developing oral cancer than non-smokers and drinkers. Early detection and appropriate treatment improve survival, however there are variations in performance across the UK.

Effective Health Care summarises the research evidence behind new guidance issued today on the management of head and neck cancers. The evidence shows that:

  • Patients whose cancers are detected earlier and who are managed by multidisciplinary teams experience better outcomes. Dentists may detect oral cancer and therefore regular check-ups are important.

  • Arrangements for referral at each stage of the patient’s cancer journey should be streamlined. Diagnostic clinics should be established for patients with neck lumps.

  • Research in this area is generally inadequate. Further research using appropriate methods is urgently required.

Ros Collins, one of the authors of the research, states, ‘Most head and neck cancers are preventable and better outcomes could be achieved when managing the cases that do arise. We hope that the research we have undertaken leads to real improvements in the treatment of patients suffering from these diseases.’

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