Posted on April 22, 2017

Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), the Qatar Cancer Society and Merck Medicine Company have recently partnered to raise awareness of head and neck cancers as part of activities highlighting Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month.
With a focus on both improving the quality of care for head and neck cancer patients and decreasing incidences of these cancers, the collaboration between the three organizations aims to highlight the importance of early detection and treatment.

The joint initiative encompasses a comprehensive awareness program with a series of educational activities. On 17 April, awareness events were held at HMC’s National Center for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR), Al Ahli Hospital, Mall of Qatar, and three primary health centers. The events targeted clinical and non-clinical staff, patients and their families, and the general public.

Experts report that the most common head and neck cancers form in the nasal cavity, sinus, lips, mouth, salivary glands, throat or larynx. While these cancers are less common than others, they are often complex to treat. According to the National Qatar Cancer Registry at the Ministry of Public Health, in 2015 head and neck cancers accounted for approximately four percent of overall malignant cancers in Qatar. Of these cases, more than 60 percent were diagnosed as late stage cancers. Most cases occurred in individuals aged between 45 and 49 years.

Dr. Mohammed Ussama Al Homsi, Senior Consultant in the Oncology Department at NCCCR stated: “We are concerned about the lack of awareness of head and neck cancers. Symptoms may be as simple as a sore throat that doesn’t go away or a lump or sore that doesn’t heal. I take this opportunity to stress the significance of frequent screening as a preventive measure.” He continued: “A screening for head and neck cancer should be included in one’s annual health checkup. Just like any other cancer, when found early, most cancers in the head and neck can be treated and cured. In other words, the earlier the disease is detected and diagnosed, the more treatment options that are available and the chances of living longer are increased.”

Dr. Al Homsi added that people with certain risk factors have an increased susceptibility to head and neck cancers. “While smoking remains the leading risk factor for this type of cancer, the human papilloma virus (HPV) infection is emerging as a possible risk factor for certain types of head and neck cancer.” Other factors that may increase the chance of developing head and neck cancer include, but are not limited to, long-term exposure to sunlight, wood dust, and/or nickel dust. The good news is that many of these risk factors can be completely eliminated, lowering the chances of developing head and neck cancers.

Dr. Al Homsi said according to cancer experts, excess weight, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity increase both the risk of developing cancer and the rate of cancer growth. “Eating healthily is therefore an important step in reducing the risk of developing head and neck cancer and other related diseases,” he said, adding: “Once diagnosed, one’s ability to fight cancer can be improved by undergoing a couple of simple steps, namely maintaining healthy habits and getting regular health checkups. Finding a balance between food intake and physical activity remains a major step towards achieving good health and a cancer-free population.” 

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