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Meaning of life

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." ~ Pablo Picasso

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Cancer Chronicles 27

Seriuosly Statistically Speaking:

The American Cancer Society estimates that it costs $3.2 billion annually to treat head and neck cancers in the United States. Approximately 45,000 people develop head and neck caner in the U.S. every year.

CANCER can occur in any part of the mouth, tongue, lips, throat, salivary glands, pharynx, larynx, sinus, and other sites located in the head and neck area. These "Mouth Cancers" have a higher proportion of deaths per number of cases than breast cancer, cervical cancer or skin melanoma.

Oral and pharyngeal cancer is the sixth most common malignancy reported worldwide and one with high mortality ratios among all malignancies. The global number of new cases was estimated at 405,318 about two-thirds of them arising in developing countries. Highest rates are reported in South Asian countries such as India and Sri Lanka. The Indian sub-continent accounts for one-third of the world burden. The incidence and mortality from oral cancer is rising in several regions of Europe, Taiwan, Japan and Australia.

Every year in Europe, around 100,800 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancer and almost 40,000 die from the disease. About 90 percent of head and neck cancers are of the squamous cell variety. Although there have been significant improvements in chemotherapy and surgical techniques, the disease is often particularly challenging to treat since most patients present with advanced disease, have secondary tumours and suffer from other co-morbidities. Unfortunately 5-year survival rate has not improved (50% overall) for the last few decades except in specialized cancer centres.

In the UK, there were 7,697 cases in 2004. The mortality rate is just over 50%, despite treatment, with 2,718 deaths occurring in 2005. Mouth Cancer kills one person every 3 hours in the UK because of late detection. An increasing number of young people are being affected and 25% of the cases have no associated significant risk factors. Other organisations may quote lower statistics. In fact the statistics are much worse. They are missing out vital data which is very relevant. For example, ask children where saliva is formed? They will say "in the mouth".

The Mouth Cancer Foundation statistics include cancer of the salivary gland, but unfortunately because of tradition other organisations are missing out statistics on salivary gland, throat and other relevant regions, which should fall under the "Mouth Cancer" umbrella. The Mouth Cancer Foundation is taking a lead to include important statistics because they believe it is important for the public to be aware of all cancers connected to the mouth.

In its very early stages, mouth cancers can be almost invisible making it easy to ignore. You can improve your chances of survival if the cancer is detected early and rapidly treated. It is important to have a self-awareness and to perform regular, self-examinations to help in the early identification of these symptoms:

1. A sore or ulcer in the mouth that does not heal within three weeks

2. A lump or overgrowth of tissue anywhere in the mouth

3. A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth

4. Difficulty in swallowing

5. Difficulty in chewing or moving the jaw or tongue

6. Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth

7. A feeling that something is caught in the throat

8. A chronic sore throat or hoarseness that persists more than six weeks, particularly smokers over 50 years old and heavy drinkers

9. Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable

10. Neck swelling present for more than three weeks

11. Unexplained tooth mobility persisting for more than three weeks - see a dentist urgently

12. Unilateral nasal mass / ulceration / obstruction, particularly associated with purulent or bloody discharge

Reduce your chances of getting these cancers by:

1. Not smoking or chewing tobacco, more >>

2. Limiting alcohol consumption

3. Having a healthier "low meat, low fat" diet, rich in vegetables and fruit with servings of bread, cereals or beans everyday


I know this blog was on the serious side. For me, these statistics aren't pleasant. Hummm.. 5 year, 50% mortality rate? ONE down, FOUR to go!

Things could be worse!
Peace B

*Stats from The American Cancer Society and The Mouth Cancer Foundation UK

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