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How Can I Prevent Head and Neck Cancer?

no smoking

Some cancers of the head and neck are preventable. Learn about the risk factors so you can know which ones you can get rid of and which ones you cannot control. You may want to talk about your risks with your doctor.

People who do not smoke or use tobacco lower their risk for head and neck cancer as well as for several other cancers.

If you have already had head and neck cancer, you can cut your chances of getting a new cancer by stopping the use of any kind of tobacco. Counseling or self-help groups can be helpful if you want to stop smoking. Contact the American Cancer Society or the American Lung Association for information about groups near you.

Some head and neck cancers have been linked to infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that can be spread through sexual contact, including oral sex. Limiting your sexual partners may lower your risk of certain types of head and neck cancers. 

Limiting how much alcohol you drink, eating a healthy diet, making sure dentures fit properly, and having your mouth checked regularly for possible signs of precancerous growths may also reduce your risk for head and neck cancers.

Can I get checked for head and neck cancer before I have symptoms?

No screening tests for head and neck cancers are currently recommended for the general public, other than regular physical exams. Because it's easier to treat head and neck cancer if it is found early, people should have regular checkups that include an examination of the mouth, head, and neck. This is especially important for people who use tobacco or routinely drink alcohol. Doctors and dentists can do these exams. Some doctors and dentists also recommend doing a self-exam by looking at your mouth in the mirror for changes or anything unusual, particularly if you are a smoker or heavy drinker. Tell your doctor or dentist right away if you notice any sores in your mouth that don't go away. 


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