The fourth cause of cancer in Europe, ENT cancers often have a poor prognosis due to too late diagnosis. The cause: the symptoms, rarely worrying which are trivialized or even ignored. What are they ? The answers from Professor Sébastien Vergez, head of the surgery department at IUCT-Oncopole in Toulouse.
ENT cancers, also called cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract (AVDS), include a whole series of cancers in this region of the body. We count :
- Oral cancers, which affect the lips, gums, jaw, palate and tongue;
- Cancers of the pharynx with tonsils and throat;
- Cancers of the larynx, with the vocal cords;
- And finally cancers of the salivary glands, nose, sinuses and neck lymph nodes.
What are the signs that should worry you?
These cancers are quite common because when grouped together, they represent the fourth cause of cancer in Europe. They particularly affect men, in 7 out of 10 cases and occur more particularly in the 50-64 age group.
The problem with this type of cancer is that the symptoms are too often ignored because they are seen as trivial. However, if the disease is diagnosed at an early stage, it can be cured in 9 out of 10 cases. So what are these signs to pay attention to and when to consult? For Professor Vergez, head of the surgery department of the IUCT-Oncopole in Toulouse and head of the ENT and head and neck surgery department at the Toulouse University Hospital, the following rule must be applied: consult a doctor if you present only one of these signs which persists for more than three weeks.
Sore tongue, non-healing mouth ulcers and/or red or white spots in the mouth
“All these symptoms described, when they last more than three weeks, should prompt a person to consult their doctor or possibly their dentist. begins immediately with Professor Sébastien Vergez. “It is the persistent side of the symptom which should alert you, when the wound does not heal. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily cancer.” however, he immediately reassures. However, “lThe persistence of any lesion in the oral mucosa – especially when it is red, bleeding and painful – warrants an examination of the mouth by a doctor” he insists.
Pain in the throat
Here again, these are pains that are generally trivial. “It could be pharyngitis, which simply takes time to heal.“says the doctor.”But to be sure, a consultation must be carried out by a general practitioner, who can then refer you to an ENT specialist if necessary.“.
A broken voice can also be caused by laryngitis. “To ensure this, as an ENT specialist, we can perform a fibroscopy in consultation. The fiberscope is the size of a large spaghetti, you pass it through the nose and you can visualize the vocal cords and the throat, thanks to the camera installed at the end. This helps determine where the broken voice is coming from.” adds Professor Vergez.
People who smoke and drink alcohol are particularly affected by this symptom. “You should know that drinking increases the risk of ENT cancer by 2.5, as does smoking, but both increase the risk by 15 to 40 times, depending on the type of consumption. However, not drinking and not smoking does not exclude the risk, because the third risk factor is the papillomavirus, certain forms of which cause ENT and anogenital cancers. specifies the professor.
Painful and/or difficult swallowing
Dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, which lasts, is also a sign that should not be overlooked. “It may be a tumor that is bothersome, the patient generally describes a sensation of a foreign body in the throat” indicates the specialist.
A lump in the neck
Head and neck cancers often generate lymph nodes. “About a quarter of patients discover their illness this way” estimates the specialist. “A lymph node may be swollen for a few days, but if this persists, you should consult.”.
Ear pain, in the case of ENT cancer or a throat problem, is actually referred pain. “A person who swallows a fish bone, which gets stuck in their throat, may describe pain in the ear, due to the projection of nerves from the ear area to the throat. This is why, in the event of ear pain, an additional examination of the throat is essential. underlines the specialist.
Nose blocked on one side and/or blood flowing from the nose
The case of nosebleeds or blocked noses is more specific. “This is the case with ethmoid cancers, which often develop among woodworkers, due to the fine particles of wood that they can inhale. They must protect themselves against this with personal protective equipment. ” recommends the ENT. “It is nevertheless a sign that we must warn about, because it is not uncommon for patients to have this type of symptoms for several months, before consulting” he concludes.