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Free head and neck cancer screening April 16

April 7, 2010

Vanderbilt will hold its annual head and neck cancer screening and education event Friday, April 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences are partnering with the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance to provide the screening.

The free screening sessions will be held in two locations: Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, Odess Head & Neck Surgery Clinic, 7209 Medical Center East – South Tower, 1215 21st Avenue South, and at the VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Surgical Clinic No. 1 – ENT Clinic, First Floor, 1310 24th Avenue South.

Approximately 80,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer (including thyroid cancer) every year, according to the National Cancer Institute. These cancers may occur in the nasal cavity, sinuses, throat, lips, mouth, thyroid glands, salivary glands, or larynx (voice box).

“Symptoms of head and neck cancer can include a lump or sore in the mouth or throat that doesn’t go away, a persistent sore throat, a lump in the neck, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or a change in the voice,” said Wendell (Dell) Yarbrough, M.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology and Cancer Biology.

In the past, head and neck cancer was diagnosed primarily in older patients with a history of tobacco and alcohol use. But younger patients are increasingly at risk and the culprit may be infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), according to Yarbrough, director of the Barry Baker Laboratory for Head and Neck Oncology at VICC. HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. While most people who contract the virus never know they have it and will shed it with no lingering problems, for some people the virus can lead to malignancies.

The head and neck cancer screening exams, which take only a few minutes, include inspection of the mouth and throat as well as palpation of the neck to detect abnormalities in lymph nodes, the thyroid or salivary glands. In addition to the exams, the educational event will include booths with information and medical personnel discussing topics related to head and neck cancer.

No appointments are necessary. For more information, contact Michelle Pham (615) 936-4896.