How to Help Raise Awareness About Head and Neck Cancer

by Bethany Kandel Health Writer

Oral, head, and neck cancer (OHNC) is rare, and those who don’t have it often know nothing about it. That’s one reason why it’s particularly important to educate the public about the disease and spread educational awareness. Read on to learn more about this group of cancers and how you can help make a difference.

Man talking to his doctor

What Is Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer?

OHNC is a group of different cancers of the mouth, nose, and throat, that affect the oral cavity, pharynx, throat, thyroid, and larynx (voice box). While smoking and tobacco use are still major risk factors, the fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients is young, healthy, nonsmokers thought to have gotten the disease from exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV). There is also a significant gender divide, with men two or three times more likely than women to develop these cancers.

Woman getting an MRI

Why Raising Awareness Is Key

Because many people don’t know anything about it, there is the challenge and importance of building public awareness of head and neck cancer, especially due to the increase and rising public health issue of HPV-related cancer. There is often little understanding of how OHNC can be prevented, what signs or symptoms are, and what screening methods exist. Many advocates are trying to increase education and provide such free screenings.

Find Support and Community

The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance has a mission to advance prevention, detection, treatment, and rehabilitation of these cancers through public awareness, research, advocacy and survivorship. They’ve become a one-stop center for both those with the disease and those who want to know more about it.

Woman recording herself on a microphone

Spread the Word

Part of being in a community of survivors is developing relationships to help you on your healing journey; the other part is raising awareness through events including health fairs, screenings, and more. Support for People With Oral and Head and Neck Cancer has more than 125 U.S. chapters where you can connect and take action, including becoming a volunteer mentor or spokesperson.

Use Social Media

Social media is a great way to stay connected to those who have similar cancers, and to share resources and information. It can also help raise awareness of head and neck cancers, cutting edge treatments, patient resources, and lots more. The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance has many such online educational programs throughout the year. Join their HeadsUp! Campaign to personalize a message about your own cancer journey and what you wish others knew about it.

Cancer Awareness Month

Although many people spread the word all year long, April is National Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. The initiative encourages adults who are at high risk to take advantage of free screenings and information events. A key message is that early diagnosis is key to successful treatment of these types of cancer.

Woman at the dentist

Get Your Dentist on Board

Dentists are important in spreading awareness about the disease, educating their patients, and spotting such cancers at an early stage. Discuss this with your dentist and help them by promoting the cause with these social media images.

Boy getting vaccinated by his doctor

HPV Vaccine Education

Part of spreading awareness of these cancers, is educating parents about the importance of HPV vaccines for boys and girls under age 26. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helps by answering some commonly asked questions. Give Love Not HPV is one campaign from The International Papillomavirus Society, designed to raise awareness and promote prevention, screening, and management of HPV related diseases.

Empowerment Through Advocacy

There are many ways to get involved. Walks, runs, and other fundraisers are a great way to join with others with your cancer and raise funds to support education and research. The Oral Cancer Foundation plans walks in cities around the country in which funds raised go toward combating this disease through research, awareness campaigns, and free oral cancer screenings. Find out what events are coming up on their website.

Connect With Others

The Oral Cancer Foundation Support Forum has a message board and chat room area where you can connect with others with the disease, stay updated on news, share ideas, and find out ways to get involved.

You Can Make a Difference

No matter your personal journey with head and neck cancer — whether you’ve just been diagnosed, you’re a survivor, or you have a loved one with the disease — you can make a difference by raising awareness. Spreading the word about risk factors, prevention, and support resources can make a positive impact on helping stop the rise of this group of cancers.

Bethany Kandel
Meet Our Writer
Bethany Kandel

Bethany Kandel is a New York-based journalist, health writer, and author. Her articles have appeared in dozens of national publications and websites, including The New York Times, Prevention, Good Housekeeping, and Woman’s Day. After a breast cancer diagnosis, she began writing about the subject. She created Breast Cancer Freebies, where she helps patients/survivors find free wigs, hats, and other resources to help them thrive. Find her on Twitter @cancerfreebies.