April 17, 1998

Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week set

Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week set

When Dr. Terry A. Day was in his otolaryngology residency he saw patient after patient with advanced head and neck cancer who had no idea what caused it.

He decided something had to be done to raise awareness of head and neck cancer, to let the public know most cases could be prevented, and to get out the word that early detection can double the odds for survival.

That something is "Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week," sponsored by the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation and spearheaded by Day, assistant professor of Otolaryngology. The week's events will take place April 19-25.

"In residency, I was seeing patients come in with advanced cancer," Day said. "They had no idea what caused it, and they weren't tipped off by the early symptoms, which often mimic other diseases.

"That's our fault, the fault of people like me who treat this kind of cancer. We have to get the word out."

About 60,000 Americans will develop cancer of the head and neck this year, and nearly 13,000 will die, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. The vast majority of cases are the result of tobacco or alcohol use, or a combination.

Head and Neck Cancer Week is the first such awareness effort organized in the United States. Several cities have followed Nashville's lead to schedule events of their own, Day said.

Day has also been asked to serve as president of the Yul Brynner Foundation, named for the stage and screen actor who was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous larynx condition in 1982 and died three years later from metastasized lung cancer. As a result, the Chicago-based organization will move its headquarters to Nashville. The week will include a visit to Nashville by Janet Trever, a cancer survivor who serves as executive director of the Yul Brynner Foundation. During her lifetime, Trever has developed three, apparently unrelated cancers: retinoblastoma behind her right eye as a child, breast cancer 30 years later and most recently, cancer of the salivary gland.

During the week's festivities, physicians and head and neck cancer survivors will visit area schools to talk to youngsters about the importance of prevention, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and other hospitals will offer free screenings, and walkers and runners will participate in a 5-K race to raise awareness.

The 5-K "Human Race" will begin at 8 a.m., Saturday, April 25, at Fountain Square in MetroCenter. Registration, which begins at 6:45 a.m., costs $15 before April 19, and early registrants will receive a T-shirt. Registration after April 19 will be $17, and participants will receive T-shirts while supplies last. To learn more about the race, call 343-3701.

The free screenings, which involve a short questionnaire and physical examination, will be offered Friday, April 24. For information about screening locations or other Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week activities, call 343-5895.