27 July 2022

Today is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Day.  Organised by the International Federation of Head and Neck Oncology Societies, the campaign is an opportunity for everyone to share messages about the signs and symptoms and risk factors of the disease, as well as where to go if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Over the last year, more than 12,000 people in the UK will be given the news that they have head and neck cancer.  These numbers continue to rise.  What’s really worrying is that awareness remains extremely low.  As a result, far too many head and neck cancers are caught too late.  More than 4,000 people lose their life to head and neck cancer in the UK each year, and this is largely down to late diagnosis.

Spotting the signs

It is so incredibly important that everyone is able to spot the early warning signs of head and neck cancer. These include:

  • Mouth ulcers that do not heal after three weeks.

  • Red or white patches in the mouth.

  • Lumps or swellings on the head or neck.

  • Persistent hoarseness.

If you notice any of these, it is important to visit your dentist immediately.  The sooner a diagnosis can be made, the better chance you have of beating the disease, and you will also have a better quality of life.

A self-check takes no more than a minute and can save your life.  Looking for head and neck cancer on a regular basis is a really good habit to get into and can be done in front of the bathroom mirror after brushing your teeth.  

The risk factors

We don’t know what causes most head and neck cancers.  However, there are several factors that are likely to increase your risk.  Up to 90% of all head and neck cancers are linked to lifestyle.

This means that with a few small changes, you can help cut your chances of developing head and neck cancer.  The leading causes include:

  • Smoking tobacco.

  • Drinking alcohol to excess.

  • The human papillomavirus (HPV).

  • Chewing and smokeless tobacco.

If you do not stop or reduce the things that might put you at greater risk, it is even more important that you do self-checks at home and regularly visit your dentist.

Supporting World Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Day

There are some really easy ways you can support today’s World Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Day.

  • Conduct a self-check for head and neck cancer.

  • Cut out something in your life that increases your risk of developing head and neck cancer.

  • If you have family and friends at higher risk, tell them about head and neck cancer. Show them how to check for the disease and encourage regular dental visits.

  • If you haven’t had a dental appointment in a while, book yourself a check-up.

  • Share messages on social media. Here are some graphics you can use, and a sample post.


Download graphics here

I am supporting World Head and Neck Cancer Day by checking myself for the early signs and symptoms.  Learn how to conduct a self-check for head and neck cancer at www.dentalhealth.org/spotthesigns #WHNCD2022