Persistent hoarseness in voice, early warning for cancer —Expert

An Ear, Nose and Throat expert, Professor George Nwaorgu has asked that Nigerians pay adequate attention to persistent hoarseness in their voice because it could sometimes be an early warning of cancer of the larynx.

Professor Nwaorgu in an inaugural lecture he delivered at the University of Ibadan said that persistent hoarseness and obstructed breathing were two major symptoms of laryngeal disease.

The expert, who declared that causes of hoarseness could be varied, stated that any hoarseness that had been persistent for more than three weeks require early referral to specialists for detailed evaluation.

Nwaorgu, who highlighted other cancers that affected the neck, head and throat regions, said it was worrisome that the increase in the number of cancers in these parts of the body had not been matched with a commensurate increase in diagnostic and cancer treatment centres and facilities.

“Presently in our country, the chances of prognosis for nasopharyngeal cancer, the cancer that starts in the upper parts of the throat behind the nose and close to the base of the skull is still very gloomy.

“Although there is an improvement in the level of awareness on cancer of tbe larynx with a consistent rise in tbe number of patients to us, a challenge which still remains incompletely solved is voice restoration post-laryngectomy.

While many people delay seeking medical care because of poverty, religious and socio-cultural beliefs, poverty and illiteracy and initial self medication, he reiterated the need for improved awareness of the general populace on these cancers, like is done for lung cancer.

The expert also linked some cases of recurrent or recalcitrant sore throat to viral infections like Neisseria gonorrhoea, the germ that causes gonorrhoea, warning that orogenital sex can pave way for cancer of the pharynx.

In addition, other cancers in the neck and head region, he said were linked  to Human Papilloma Virus, HIV and some dietary deficiencies like  vitamin A and Zinc.

To this end, he suggested  that government should put in place a targeted and well coordinated health  education  and awareness  programme for ORL diseases  and their prevention  at the community  level, through the various media and even religious organisations should be pursued with the  support of  appropriate  and relevant  agencies.

Also, inclusion of therapy for head and neck cancers in the existing  National  Health Insurance  Scheme will likely encourage  early presentation to the ORL specialist  while also reducing default  from treatment.

In addition, programmes aimed at creating awareness and encouraging immunisation against HPV and other infective agents that may result in new infections and abscess.