Neck pain is extremely common. In fact, more than 30 percent of adults in the United States experience some type of neck pain each year. If you are dealing with frequent neck pain, you might just push through the discomfort, reasoning that your problem is nothing to worry about. However, it would be unwise to disregard your pain if you do not know what is causing it. In some cases, neck pain can be a sign of cancer. Let’s talk more about head and neck cancer, as well as other signs of cancer that you should stay on the lookout for.
Neck Pain and Cancer
According to the National Cancer Institute, cases of head and neck cancer account for about 4 percent of cancer diagnoses in the United States each year. While such forms of cancer are relatively rare, that does not mean you shouldn’t remain aware of them. The longer they go undiagnosed, the more likely it is that they will spread to other parts of the body and be extremely difficult to treat.
Cancers of the head and neck are often related to tobacco use, and they tend to occur more frequently in men than in women. Such cancers may cause neck pain either because the lymph nodes in the neck are swollen or because the cancer itself is located in the neck.
Signs and Symptoms of Cancer
In addition to neck pain, other potential signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer include:
- A lump or sore in the mouth or neck that will not heal
- Unexplained voice changes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Ear pain or ringing in the ears
- Difficulty breathing
- Numbness in the head or neck
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Unexplained bad breath
What You Can Do
If you suspect that your neck pain is related to cancer, visit your dentist for an oral cancer screening. They will do more than just check your mouth for signs of cancer; they will also check out your neck and jaw. If they notice any cause for concern, they can help you arrange for further testing. The screening process is quick, painless, and noninvasive.
If your dentist sees no signs of cancer, they might be able to offer another explanation for your neck pain. For example, problems with the jaw (TMD) can cause nearby muscles, including ones in the neck and shoulders, to become overworked and experience pain. Many dentists are qualified to provide therapy to relieve such pain.
Neck pain is usually not a sign of cancer… but in rare cases, it can be. It is in your best interests to see a professional who can help you identify the cause of your discomfort and help you find relief.
Dr. Keith Hollinger is an experienced dentist whose practice focuses on relieving sleep apnea and orofacial pain. He has a deep understanding of how the jaw and surrounding structures should work together, and he is a leader in the field of TMJ therapy. To learn more about Dr. Hollinger and how he may be able to help you find relief from chronic neck pain, contact Central Connecticut Orofacial Pain & Sleep Medicine at 860-430-5687.