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Low Awareness of Head and Neck Cancers — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
June 6, 2014

Low Awareness of Head and Neck Cancers

By Kelly Young

Edited by André Sofair, MD, MPH, and William E. Chavey, MD, MS

Americans don't know a lot about head and neck cancers, including the symptoms or risk factors, an online survey indicates.

The study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, found that most of the 2100 respondents could not properly identify which cancers were considered head and neck cancer. Symptom recognition was also poor, with only 15% of participants identifying red or white sores that don't heal as a symptom.

Most respondents understood that smoking was a risk factor, but alcohol use was correctly identified as a risk factor only 5% of the time; human papillomavirus, 0.8%; and prolonged sun exposure, 0.5%.

The authors conclude: "Given that routine screening for [head and neck cancer] by primary care physicians is rarely performed and currently not recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, early detection depends on patient recognition. Similarly, primary prevention ... largely depends on awareness and avoidance of environmental risk factors."

Reader Comments (1)

Rogers,DDS Other Healthcare Professional, Dentistry, Private Practice

The public, at least in NC, seem to disregard the importance of screening for H&N/ oral cancer. We hold two well advertised days of free screening examinations annually and have little participation. Education is the key, and we are increasing our public awareness through civic organizations (speaking),etc.

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