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Exploring the link between head & neck cancer and smoking, depression, and alcohol

Cancer is a group of more than 100 different diseases. Cancer occurs when cells become abnormal and divide without control or order. If cells divide in an uncontrolled manner, a mass or tumor develops.

Head and neck cancer can occur in a variety of places including the lips, tongue, mouth and larynx (vocal cords). Head and neck cancer occurs more often in males than females. The majority of people diagnosed with head and neck cancer are between the ages of 45 and 65.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, it is natural for them and their family and friends to have many different emotions. At times, they and their loved ones may feel frightened, angry, or depressed. These are common reactions when people face a serious health problem. Often, addressing that fear and depression can increase health and functioning.

People who have had one head and neck cancer have a higher risk of developing a second cancer. Therefore, regular check ups with your doctor/nurse are important. In addition, refraining from smoking and drinking alcohol can improve your health and, in many instances, reduce your chances of a second cancer. Tobacco and alcohol contribute to over 75% of head and neck cancers.

Smoking and alcohol use are often associated with each other. Furthermore, smoking and drinking are often linked with depression. All three of these disorders are common for persons diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Continued depression, smoking, and alcohol use are likely to negatively affect health and survival.

Luckily, there are several treatments that can assist people with depression, smoking, and alcohol use. For example, there are common medications that address smoking and depression. Furthermore, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) techniques are used in the treatment of all three disorders.

This information is designed to assist people who have head and neck cancer and who suffer from depression, smoke, or drink alcohol. You may find certain sections of the manual to be more meaningful to you than other sections. In addition to using this manual, you may need to obtain medications for treating smoking and/or depression from your doctor/nurse.

By addressing your depression, smoking, and alcohol use, you are increasing your chances of a longer healthy life.

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