By Jaimie Goldstein

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– We may wind down with a glass of wine after work, but alcohol is a major risk factor for head and neck cancer. So are all tobacco products. In addition to that, 70% of cancers in the back of the throat are linked to HPV, according to the CDC.

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Dr. Paul Van der Sloot is a surgeon with the head and neck surgical specialty group at Swedish Medical Center. He says there are ways to prevent it.

“You know, I think those are probably the key elements to think about. Obviously, I think it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that we shouldn’t smoke. The combination is really a bad one. So avoiding those… that’s important.”

If you’ve already had cancer, cutting out tobacco and alcohol can keep it from returning.

But prevention with the HPV vaccine it a tool Dr. Van der Sloot recommends we all get. “Initially when [it]came out, it was primarily young, women and girls who got it. Now it’s moved on that all men and women, girls and boys should be vaccinated.”

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Dr. Van der Sloot also suggests regular check-ups with a primary care physician and that a dentist can play a big role as well. But it’s knowing the symptoms too.

“I think everything depends on site. But people having a chronically sore throat, for example, [that] doesn’t go away or continues to get worse — and we’re talking over a period of two or three weeks. If you have blood in your mouth or cough up blood, that’s a really important risk. As far as symptoms are concerned, some people will develop changes in their voice.”

A diagnosis for HPV-related cancers is better than those that aren’t related, he says.

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“Treatment can involve surgery upfront and sometimes only surgery. Also, surgery followed by radiation or even chemoradiation depending on what the pathology tells us about the tumor.”

 

 

Jaimie Goldstein