April 19, 2012

Free screening event to help spot signs of head and neck cancer

Free screening event to help spot signs of head and neck cancer

The symptoms of head and neck cancer can be subtle, so to help catch the disease in its earliest stages the Tennessee Chapter of the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences, Meharry Medical College and the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System will offer free head and neck screenings Friday, April 27.

The annual screening and educational events are open to the public and no appointment is necessary.

The screening sessions will be available 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, Odess Head & Neck Surgery Clinic, 7209 Medical Center East; VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Surgical Clinic No. 1 – ENT Clinic, First Floor, 1310 24th Ave. South; and Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry at the corner of Meharry Blvd and Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd.

No appointments are necessary. For more information, contact Michelle Pham at Vanderbilt at 936-4896, Edwin Emerson at the VA at 873-8357 or Dana Marshall, M.D., at Meharry at 327-6549.

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 80,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer every year. These cancers can occur in the nasal cavity, sinuses, throat, lips, mouth, thyroid, salivary glands or larynx (voice box).

“Lumps, bumps or sore spots on the head or neck or discomfort in the mouth and throat may be early symptoms of head and neck cancer,” said Wendell (Dell) Yarbrough, M.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology and Cancer Biology at VICC. “It’s easy to miss these symptoms or to assume that a sore throat is just a viral infection, but if these issues continue for more than two weeks they can be a sign of something serious.”

Other symptoms include difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or a change in the voice.

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