Author: Kay Kinsella

Eighty-three per cent of those surveyed on their knowledge of head and neck cancer (HNC) have admitted to knowing little or nothing about the disease.

The study of 200 Irish people, published in the Irish Medical Journal, showed the majority (96 per cent) of those surveyed identified smoking as a major risk factor to developing HNC, but few (27 per cent) recognised excessive alcohol consumption as a risk.

Less than 100 (50 per cent) would have concern about persisting hoarseness or a prolonged oral ulcer, despite them being common symptoms of HNC.

HNC is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, with more than half a million new cases diagnosed every year and 200,000 deaths resulting from this cancer annually.

Survival rates of the cancer, however, remain low with 50 per cent of those diagnosed with tongue cancer dying within five years.
Early diagnosis of HNC could boost survival rates up to 70-80 per cent, however, it is reported that 60 per cent of patients diagnosed with HNC are at an advanced stage of the disease.

The study reveals that 98 per cent of the public surveyed desired more information about the disease, however, there is little awareness being raised on the topic among the Irish public. The disease has higher mortality rates than any other form of cancer, including, breast, cervical, and prostate cancer, but these all have higher profiles in the public domain.

1. The study was carried out in the Department of Otolaryngology in Galway University Hospitals.