Screening for cancers of the head and neck: addressing the problem.
More than 90% of upper aerodigestive tract (UADT) cancers occur in people with specific lifestyle risks, including tobacco and alcohol use. More than 90% of tumors occur in easily examined parts of the head and neck, therefore, there is the possibility of identifying the vast majority of patients through selective screening. Physicians should keep in mind that the mucosa's sojourn from visually suspicious (and possibly malignant) tissue is most likely less than two years, and frequent examination of asymptomatic patients is necessary. When patients wait to bring symptoms to medical attention, their cancers will be advanced 60% of the time when the chance of cure is less than 30%. Given the difficulty of implementing regular examinations in a poorly compliant, high risk population, genetic and molecular screening tools may allow very high risk individuals to be identified.
Ellison, MD; Campbell, BH
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