Just because you can’t feel it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Just ask the more than 50,000 Americans who were diagnosed with cancers of the head and neck last year. Unfortunately, many Americans do not recognize the symptoms of these life-threatening diseases, which include cancers of the oral cavity, larynx and pharynx, and by the time they are diagnosed, for some, it’s too late.
Oral, head and neck cancers claim approximately 12,000 lives per year. However, there is hope; if diagnosed early, these cancers can be more easily treated without significant complications, and the chances of survival greatly increase.
How can I get screened locally?
MemorialMedical Center—Lufkin will offer free oral cancer screenings in observance of the 14th annual Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week (OHANCAW) on May 6 from 8:30-3 p.m. at the Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center in Lufkin. The screening is painless and only takes about 10 minutes. Please contact the Arthur Temple Senior Regional Cancer Center at (936) 639-7466 to sign up for your free oral cancer screening today. Space is limited and reservations will be honored on a first come, first serve basis.
Who should get tested?
Every adult. Tobacco and alcohol users traditionally have been considered the populations at greatest risk for these cancers. However, oral cancer cases are on the rise in younger adults who do not smoke, and recent research indicates this development is due partly to the increase of the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus, a cancer-causing infection that can be transmitted by oral sex. HPV-related oral cancers are more difficult to detect because these cancers usually occur on the back of the tongue or on the tonsils, providing even more reason to get screened regularly.
What are the potential warning signs of oral cancers?
The signs and symptoms of oral cancer often go unnoticed. However, there are a few visible signs associated with these cancers that require immediate attention, including:
- Red or white patches in the mouth that last more than two weeks
- Change in voice or hoarseness that lasts more than two weeks
- Sore throat that does not subside
- Pain or swelling in the mouth or neck that does not subside
- Lump in the neck
- Ear pain
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Difficulty breathing
If you have any of the above warning signs, do not wait for the free screenings. Seek medical attention immediately.
Why should I get screened?
If the above stats weren’t reason enough, know that the screening is quick, painless and free, and it’s right around the corner. Given the current state of the economy and rising health care costs, take advantage of the opportunity to benefit from this preventive health measure at no charge by taking 10 minutes to do something that could save your life. Early diagnosis and treatment improves outcomes and chances of survival, particularly for individuals with HPV-related oral cancers.