January 4, 2016 9:30 pm
Updated: January 5, 2016 5:40 pm

Manuary kicks off in Edmonton, raising awareness for head and neck cancer

A shave off was held at Tommy Gun's barbershop in south Edmonton Monday, Jan. 4, 2015 ahead of Manuary.

Morris Gamblin, Global News

EDMONTON — Most people have heard of Movember, but what about Manuary?

Participants of the annual event grow beards in hopes of raising funds and awareness for head and neck cancer, the sixth most common cancer in the world.

A shave off event was held in Edmonton Monday, to give participants a fresh face for the month.

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“Manuary is such a cause, a beneficial cause, to get awareness out there. I focus on bringing awareness to the unaware,” said Ken Roth, who was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the base of his tongue in Dec. 2013.

“The more people know about it, the more people can do about it.”

While head and neck cancers have historically been linked to smoking and drinking, doctors say more and more it’s being associated with human papillomavirus (HPV).

“We’d like people to be aware of the fact that there’s an increase in incidents and that it’s not just affecting individuals who are drinking and smoking, it’s also affecting young, healthy individuals who are getting HPV,” said Dr. Vincent Biron, a head and neck surgeon at the University of Alberta Hospital.

Roth said his cancer was caused by HPV. He had surgery to remove about three-quarters of the base of his tongue, some of which was replaced by a piece from his wrist. He then underwent chemotherapy and radiation.

“I wanted to make sure that it didn’t return,” Roth said.

Head and neck cancers, and their treatments, can have profound impacts on a patient’s quality of life, compromising facial appearance, speech, breathing and swallowing.

Manuary was started five years ago in London, ON by a group of otolaryngology residents.

Money raised through Manuary will go directly towards advancing head and neck cancer care at the University of Alberta Hospital.

For more information on the event, visit Manuary’s website.

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