The facts: Head and neck cancer in Egypt

Ingy Deif, Thursday 25 Sep 2014

A campaign is launched to raise awareness about a rarely discussed form of cancer which affects the head and neck, and kills 1,900 people in Egypt every year

Photo: Reuters

On 23 September, a campaign was launched, under the title Pay Attention, to raise awareness about a seldom discussed type of tumour: head and neck cancer.

The campaign runs for four consecutive days and is sponsored by the Egyptian Society of Head and Neck Oncology (ESHNO), and Merck Pharmaceuticals.

According to ESHNO statistics, 4,000 Egyptians fall victim to these types of tumours every year, among which almost 1,900 die.

Dr Ahmed Selim, Professor of Oncology at Cairo University, addressed the problem of increasing numbers of patients worldwide. "In Europe alone, last year saw 150,000 suffer from this type of cancer, and it is notable that males are three times more prone to it compared to their female counterparts."

He said that head and neck cancer is on the rise, and current numbers make it the sixth most common type of cancer worldwide.

Dr Mahmoud Bassiouni, chairman of ESHNO, shed light on the role of smoking as a leading cause.

"Smoking ups your risk of head and neck cancer by 15 percent, and a whopping 75 percent of all cases are caused directly by smoking."

Bassiouni stressed that most patients are above 40, but the age drops when bad habits are acquired, like drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes or shisha."That’s why mouth tumours account for 42 percent of cases."

Dr Ayman Abdel-Wahab, professor of Oncology, stressed the importance of early detection and raising awareness in that regard. "More than 90 percent of cases are curable if detected early, but unfortunately two thirds of Egyptians who notice signs just ignore them, and then come to us when it's too late," he said.

He points out that the signs are alarming if one or more of them persist for more than three weeks, listing them as follows:

• Change in the voice

• Lump, pain, or cluster in the throat

• Red or white stains in the mouth

• Incurable ulcers in the mouth

• Difficulty in swallowing

• Swollen throat

• Blood clusters in the nose

The role played by the National Cancer Institute was highlighted by Dr Gamal Emeira.

"It was the biggest institution for treating cancer patients in the Middle East when it was first established in 1969, and the head and neck unit was inaugurated in 2008.

"The institute deals with 60 percent of patients in Egypt, training doctors in ten cancer institutions across the country, and providing treatments and surgeries seldom used elsewhere, but it is still in dire need of attention and donations due to the increasing number of patients every year."

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