Queenslanders in wealthy areas less likely to get head and neck cancer

Wealth has been revealed to be a major driver in cases of head and neck cancer in Queensland with those in disadvantaged areas 1.7 times more likely to be diagnosed than affluent areas.

According to data from Cancer Council Queensland, living in remote areas was another factor, with 20 in every 100,000 people diagnosed with head and neck cancer, compared to 14 in every 100,000 in metro areas between 2010 and 2014.

Cancer Council Queensland chief executive Chris McMillan said this type of cancer often went undiagnosed because the symptoms were easy to miss.

"You think I've just got a sore throat because it's hung around or I've just got a hoarse voice because it's hung around and that could be early warning signs of cancer," she said.

Distance to health services was another factor which contributed to the differences.

"If you're the main breadwinner and you live on the land and you're working on the land, if you farm, that's your job and to have to leave that and go to seek medical attention away," Ms McMillan said.

"Then that's your livelihood that's at stake as well."

Ms McMillan said quitting smoking and minimising alcohol consumption would help lower the risk of developing cancer.

"The combination of alcohol and tobacco together being consumed, really does predispose people to the biggest risk factor in terms of head and neck cancer," she said.

Mortality rates in Queensland were also higher outside of metro areas, with cancer sufferers in regional and remote areas 30 and 130 per cent respectively more likely to die from the disease.

Ms McMillan said the largest concern was people not getting diagnosed early enough.

"The later a diagnosis is made with most diseases, the higher the risk of longer term effects and mortality," she said.

"And so that comes into play quite definitely when you have people that are actually having a diagnosis made at the later stage.

"Then it plays to the fact that the treatments, as you would imagine, are a lot harder, so hence the increase in mortality rates."

Ms McMillan said the best way to prevent cancer through early diagnosis is to be aware of your own body.

"Know and understand what's normal for you so when you notice something that's abnormal you can act on it," she said.

The story Queenslanders in wealthy areas less likely to get head and neck cancer first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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