Knowing Your Body Can Lower Your Cancer Risk: May 5, 2019

Each year more than 12 million people are diagnosed with cancer. Of that number 3 percent of people are diagnosed with head and neck cancers. “I think we would see a huge decrease if we could get people never to start smoking,” said Dr. Anthony Anfuso, an otolaryngologist on the medical staff of Lee Health.

Doctors say when the cancer is caught can help determine how it’s treated. “For any type of head and neck cancer I treat, the earlier stage I see them, the better they are going to do,” said Dr. Anfuso.

It’s important to know your body-that means noticing any new lumps in the neck, trouble swallowing, or new sores in the mouth that won’t go away. “In an adult, a lump in the neck is never normal. What you should always be thinking of when you feel a lump or a mass in the neck is cancer,” he said.

Other things like voice changes or difficulty breathing can also be early signs of head and neck cancer. “Come in when you see something that is very small,” said Dr. Anfuso.

But as the tumors get larger, surgery can become more extensive. “The morbidity from the surgery gets worse, which means there’s going to more effect on the speech, swallowing, cosmetic appearance and the prognosis goes down as well,” he said.

If a patient has any concerns, there are several tests available to help determine what’s causing the symptoms. “Like imaging tests, like cat scans, ultrasounds, pet scans that can suggest cancer but really the only way to definitively prove cancer is to take a piece of that tissue via biopsy, send it to the pathologist and have them confirm the diagnosis of cancer,” said Dr. Anfuso.

Knowing your body can help you detect changes early, giving you a better fight with cancer.