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Free oral, head and neck cancer screenings April 14 at IU Hospital

Free oral, head and neck cancer screenings will be offered from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 14, in room 3170 of the Adult Outpatient Center at Indiana University Hospital. Valet and garage parking is available at 550 N. University Blvd.

The screenings are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. For additional information, call (317) 948-3231.

The screenings – which are held in conjunction with Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week (April 12-18) – involve a physical examination of the mouth, facial area and neck for abnormalities. If any irregularities are found, a person will be referred to his or her primary care physician or a specialist.

“When diagnosed very early, oral and other head and neck cancers can be more easily treated with fewer complications, and the chances of survival greatly increase,” said Michael G. Moore, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a physician/researcher with the IU Simon Cancer Center. “Many Americans do not recognize the symptoms of these cancers, so an additional benefit of these screenings is that they allow us to educate a larger audience about head and neck cancer.”

According to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, approximately 55,000 Americans were diagnosed in 2008 with cancers of the head and neck, which include cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, skin, sinuses, saliva and thyroid glands. Nearly 13,000 died from oral, head or neck cancer.

An early indication of oral and throat cancer is one or more changes in the way the soft tissues of your mouth usually look or feel.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • A sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal or increases in size
  • Persistent pain in your mouth
  • Lumps or white, red or dark patches inside your mouth
  • Thickening of your cheek
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving your tongue
  • Difficulty moving your jaw or swelling or pain in your jaw
  • Soreness in your throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat
  • Pain around your teeth or loosening of your teeth
  • Numbness of your tongue or elsewhere in your mouth
  • Changes in your voice
  • A lump in your neck
  • Bad breath

The most effective way to prevent these cancers is to stop smoking, chewing tobacco and drinking alcohol excessively. More than 85 percent of head and neck cancers are related to tobacco use, while others may have a relationship to viral causes such as human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and Epstein-Barr virus (a common virus that remains dormant in most people but causes infectious mononucleosis and has been associated with certain cancers).