Southcoast Centers for Cancer Care to hold free head and neck cancer screenings on April 14

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. – Southcoast Centers for Cancer Care oncologists and Southcoast Ear Nose & Throat Surgeons have teamed up to offer free head and neck cancer screenings on the Southcoast Wellness Van on Tuesday, April 14, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 114 McArthur Boulevard in New Bedford.

“Times have changed. We used to worry about oral cavity cancers mainly in people who use tobacco products, especially chew tobacco. We have known for a long time that combining alcohol with tobacco increases the risk of an oral cavity cancer a hundred times compared to those who don’t do either,” said Wendy Stern, MD, Chief of Otolaryngology for Southcoast Health. “Now we have a new risk factor to worry about, human papilloma virus, a sexually-transmitted disease that increases the risk for oral cavity cancer. In fact, two out of three newly diagnosed oral cavity cancers are associated with this virus.”

A head and neck cancer screening is quick and painless. Doctors will inspect the lips, gums, cheeks and mouth using a light. They will also feel for lumps in the neck. Reservations are required for the screening, and can be made by calling 877-822-2732.

“Head and neck cancers can be very aggressive however they are very treatable when caught at an early stage,” said Dr. Patrick Gagnon, a radiation oncologist at Southcoast Health. “Our goal is to raise awareness of this important cancer while providing appropriate education about its risk factors to our local communities.”

Some of the symptoms that are common in head and neck cancer include a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty swallowing and a change or hoarseness in the voice. Head and neck cancers are more common in men and in people over the age of 40. It is estimated that about 50,000 men and women in the United States are diagnosed with head and neck cancers annually. Caucasians currently have the highest incidence rates of head and neck cancer, although death is still highest among African Americans.

The screening is a part of Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, April 12-18, which is led by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and supported by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.