Cases of head and neck cancer on the rise

Kathmandu, July 26

Despite various awareness campaigns on cancer and its risks, the number of cancer patients, including head and neck cancer patients, is increasing steadily in the country.

The country does not have exact data on people suffering from head and neck cancer due to lack of national cancer database. Based on available data from hospitals, it is expected that some 3,500 to 5,000 people lose their lives annually due to head and neck cancer.

“More than 7,000 to 8,000 new cases of head and neck cancer are reported every year, among which 80 per cent are sent to the referral centre at an advanced stage, said Prabhat Chandra Thakur, MS Consultant, ENT, Head Neck Surgeon Unit Head, Nepal Cancer Hospital and Research Centre.

Consumption of tobacco is the main reason for increasing number of head and neck cancer cases in the country. At least 15 new patients of head and neck cancer visit the out-patient department at NCHRC on a daily basis. Head and neck cancer is a group of cancers of various subsets involving body part from the lowermost neck up to the skull base (bone separating sinus from the brain). It includes mouth, larynx (voice box), throat, nose and sinus, ear, skin cancer of face, thyroid, salivary gland and lymph node of neck. Patients come to hospital with complaints related with non-healing ulcer in mouth, difficulty in swallowing, change in voice and swelling in neck, among others, according to Dr Thakur.

“A large number of people in the Tarai region are found to be suffering from head and neck cancer because people living there consume paan, guthkha and khaini more than the people from hills and mountains,” said the doctor. It is three times more common in males than females. Though no age group  is immune to it, it is more common among those who are 40 years or  above, according to the doctor.

“People, who consume tobacco from an early age, are more prone to head and neck cancer. There are also patients in their early twenties who are suffering from cancer,” said Thakur during a press conference organised at the hospital.

Early detection is the key to manage head and neck cancer, according to the doctor.

With an aim to raise awareness of head and neck cancer, World Head and Neck Cancer Day is observed every year across the world on July 27.