April 8, 2005

Free head and neck cancer screening set

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photo by Dana Johnson

Free head and neck cancer screening set

Sometimes called the “forgotten cancer,” the tumors collectively known as head and neck cancers are among some of the most challenging for doctors to treat and among the toughest for patients to face.

However, as with many cancers, early detection greatly increases the odds for a cure and reduces the risks that the disease or its treatment will interfere with activities like swallowing, talking or chewing.

In cooperation with the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation, doctors and nurses who treat patients with head and neck cancer at Vanderbilt will offer a free screening day on April 15 to look for signs of cancers in the mouth, tongue, larynx (voice box) and areas of the throat. Simultaneous screenings will be offered at the Nashville Veterans Administration Medical Center next to Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“One reason that head and neck cancer may be considered the forgotten cancer is because they aren't lumped together in cancer statistics,” said Dell Yarbrough, M.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) and Cancer Biology and director of the Barry Baker Laboratory for Head and Neck Oncology. “But when taken collectively, head and neck cancer is the fifth most common type of cancer, affecting roughly 50,000 Americans every year.”

Despite their location in different sites of the head and neck region, these cancers tend to behave and to be treated similarly, and they tend to have similar risk factors, Yarbrough said. “Smoking and drinking alcohol — especially doing both — contribute to 75 percent of head and neck cancers,” he said.

Treating more than 400 patients each year, the multi-disciplinary head and neck cancer team at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences is one of the busiest in the nation for this specialty.

The screenings at The Vanderbilt Clinic and the Nashville VA will be offered from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and are open to the public. No appointment is necessary and will not be taken.

Participants at Vanderbilt should park in the clinic garage at the corner of 22nd and Pierce avenues (bring parking tickets along for validation) and cross to the Otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat, ENT) clinic, Suite 2900, on the second floor.

VA participants should go to the Otolaryngology (ear, nose, and throat, ENT) clinic on the first floor adjacent to the main lobby.

For more information about the screenings, call Gene Edwards at 322-5550. For more information about head and neck cancer, visit The Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation at www.yulbrynnerfoundation.org.

The Foundation was established in memory of the award-winning actor, best known for his role in “The King and I,” who died in 1985 of lung cancer. Prior to his death, Brynner overcame a pre-malignant growth on his voice box, after which he became a champion for anti-smoking education. The foundation raises money for research, education and treatment, and provides support for patients with head and neck cancers.