Southcoast Health provides free oral cancer screening to 31 patients from across the region

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — Southcoast Health provided free head and neck cancer screenings to 31 patients from across the region on the Southcoast Wellness Van on Tuesday, April 11, on New Bedford’s waterfront. Of the 31 patients examined, 14 required additional follow-up care — a sign that a significant health issue was discovered. This early intervention can be potentially life-saving for the patient.

“Early identification of head and neck cancers is critical to provide the best possible outcome for patients while minimizing the types and extent of treatments that might be required,” explained Patrick J. Gagnon, MD, MS, Chief of Radiation Oncology at Southcoast Health. “Screenings are a great way to not only pick up cancers early, but engage people in their healthcare and get them thinking about preventive care including sunblock use, oral hygiene and tobacco cessation.”

The screenings were performed by Dr. Gagnon, Dr. Sonia Seng, and physician assistants Michelle Bisnaw, Kathryn Titcomb, Melissa Carrette and Joshua Frias.

During the screenings, the doctors and physician assistants inspected the lips, gums, cheeks and mouth using a light, and also felt for lumps in the neck.

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, and risk factors include smoking, chewing tobacco and consuming alcohol.

It is estimated that about 40,000 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.

For more information, visit