Kerala has one of the highest reported incidences of head and neck cancers, which constitute over 30 per cent of all cancers in the Indian subcontinent, according to experts.
Subramania Iyer, director of the Head and Neck Institute at Kochi's Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, identified tobacco use as the major cause of head and neck cancers.
"It is well known that cigarettes and tobacco use constitute the major cause of head and neck cancers," said Iyer.
"The type of treatment depends on the site and stage of cancer and the patient's overall health condition. For cancers in early stages, surgery and radiation therapy are generally used."
Head and neck cancers may manifest as non-healing ulcers or growth in the mouth, slurred speech, persistent change in voice, foreign-body sensation in the throat, difficulty in swallowing and swelling in the neck, among others.
Dr K. Ramadas, professor at the Regional Cancer Center here, said that although most head and neck cancers could be cured if detected early, the reality was alarming as most tumors are detected in very advanced stages.
"Considering that avoiding tobacco can prevent extremely debilitating head and neck cancers, users would do well to quit. Family members, especially children, can encourage and counsel male members to stop this addictive habit," said Ramadas.