Head and Neck Cancer Education Needed, Free Screenings Offered

CINCINNATI—While awareness and education for all cancers is improving, a recent study done with a small group of participants across the U.S. and published in the Journal for the American Medical Association (JAMA) Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery shows there’s work to be done when it comes to head and neck cancers.

Keith Casper, MD, co-director of the UC Cancer Institute’s Comprehensive Head and Neck Cancer Center, an assistant professor in the department of otolaryngology at the UC College of Medicine and UC Health physician, says being aware of the risks and symptoms of head and neck cancers is extremely important and that free screenings are coming up to help people in the Tristate catch potential problems early.

“Head and neck cancers include cancer of the throat, voice box, mouth and tongue,” Casper says, adding that around 90 percent of these cancers begin in the cells that line the mucosal surfaces within the head and neck region. “Smoking causes more than 75 percent of the cases in all the subsites of the head and neck, but the human papillomavirus, or HPV, contributes to more than 60 percent of tumors of the oropharynx—tonsil or base of tongue region. These tumors have dramatically increased in incidence over the last two decades.”

He adds that head and neck cancers account for about 3 percent of all cancers in U.S. adults.

“While the most important avoidable risk factor for head and neck cancer is smoking, sexual practices also contribute to HPV-related head and neck cancer. The number sexual partners increases a patients overall risk of developing cancer, but the vast majority of sexually active adults have been exposed to one or more strains of HPV in their lifetime. Only a small percentage of patients eventually go on to develop cancer,” Casper says. “That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for typical symptoms which could include a lump or sore in the mouth that does not heal, a sore throat that does not go away, difficulty swallowing and a change or hoarseness in the voice.

“Do not ignore the warning signs.”

As a way to increase awareness and prevent the progression of head and neck cancers, the UC Health Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery is holding free screenings from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at UC Health Primary Care Downtown, 425 Walnut St., Suite 200.

“While we can’t always completely stop the formation of head and neck cancers, we can potentially diagnose it earlier,” Casper says. “If caught early enough, head and neck cancer is a curable disease.”

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