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Free screening event for head and neck cancer set for April 17

Apr. 9, 2015, 9:34 AM

Sarah Rohde, M.D., examines Eleanor Manna during a recent screening for head and neck cancer. (photo by Joe Howell)

Of every 100 people in the United States, at least three men or women will be diagnosed with head and neck cancer in their lifetimes. These cancers can occur in the nasal cavity, sinuses, throat, lips, mouth, thyroid, salivary glands or the voice box (larynx).

Early detection of these serious diseases significantly reduces the risk of death.

Vanderbilt’s Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center are providing free head and neck cancer screenings Friday, April 17, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. The screenings are open to the public and no appointments are needed.

There are two locations for this year’s event:

• Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, Odess Head & Neck Surgery Clinic, 7209 Medical Center East, South Tower

• VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Surgical Clinic No. 1 – ENT Clinic, First Floor, 1310 24th Ave. South.

For decades, head and neck cancers were associated with heavy tobacco and alcohol use and were often diagnosed in older patients. In recent years, there has been a decline in these tobacco and alcohol-related cancers. However, physicians are now seeing a jump in head and neck cancers among younger patients, especially white men.

These new cases are associated with human papilloma virus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted virus that is usually shed by the body with no lingering effects. In patients who remain infected with HPV, the virus can lead to head and neck cancers in men and women and cancer of the cervix among women.

Symptoms of head and neck cancer include difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, a change in the voice, lumps, bumps or sore spots on the head or neck and lesions on the tongue. Problems that persist for more than two weeks may be a sign of something serious and should be investigated by a health care professional.

“Early detection is the key to better outcomes or even a cure for head and neck cancer patients,” said Sarah Rohde, M.D., assistant professor of Otolaryngology. “Patients often think they are suffering from allergies or a lingering cold, but problems that don’t clear up quickly could be early signs of a serious disease.”

The free screening exams take only a few minutes and are painless. During the exam, physicians inspect the mouth, throat and tongue and check the neck for abnormalities in the thyroid, lymph nodes or salivary glands.

For more information about the screenings, contact Michelle Pham at 615-585-5388 or email

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