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Free Head and Neck Cancer Screening

Visit us Friday, May 6 to receive your free screening

April 27, 2011 | Dagny Stuart

Lumps, bumps or sore spots on the head or neck or discomfort in the mouth and throat may be early symptoms of head and neck cancer. Vanderbilt will hold its annual free head and neck cancer screening and education event Friday, May 6, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences and Meharry Medical College are partnering with the national Head and Neck Cancer Alliance to provide the screening.

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

“Symptoms of head and neck cancer can be subtle and many patients don’t realize they are at risk for this serious form of cancer,” said Wendell (Dell) Yarbrough, M.D., associate professor of Otolaryngology and Cancer Biology.

“Hollywood actor Michael Douglas, who was recently treated for advanced throat cancer, is one of the best known advocates encouraging patients to undergo screening for early detection of head and neck cancer.”

Signs of head and neck cancer can include a lump or sore in the neck, mouth or throat that doesn’t go away, persistent sore throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or a change in the voice.

In the past, head and neck cancer was diagnosed primarily in older patients with a history of tobacco and alcohol use. But today, younger non-smoking patients infected with the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) are developing this form of cancer, according to Yarbrough, director of the Barry Baker Laboratory for Head and Neck Oncology at VICC. Most people who contract the virus never know they have it and the virus will disappear, but for some people the infection can lead to malignancies.

The head and neck cancer screening exams take only a few minutes and are painless. During the exam, physicians inspect the mouth and throat and palpate the neck to search for abnormalities in the thyroid, lymph nodes, or salivary glands.

In addition to the exams, medical personnel will be on hand during the educational event to discuss topics related to head and neck cancer prevention, therapy, research and rehabilitation.

The screening sessions will be held in three locations: Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center, Odess Head & Neck Surgery Clinic, 7209 Medical Center East – South Tower, 1215 21st Ave. South; VA Tennessee Valley Healthcare System, Surgical Clinic No. 1 – ENT Clinic, First Floor, 1310 24th Ave. South; Lobby of the Dental School at Meharry Medical College, corner of D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd. and Meharry Blvd.

No appointments are necessary. For more information, contact Michelle Pham (615) 936-4896 at Vanderbilt, or Dana Marshall (615) 327-6549 at Meharry.


  1. Is there any clinics in Arkansas doing this?

    Comment by Mignon Seratt — April 30, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  2. Hi Mignon! There are clinics in Arkansas giving head and neck cancer screenings. According to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences will be giving a free cancer screening. Please visit the listings of other organizations performing screenings on the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance’s website. Please let me know if I can be of any more assistance. Have a wonderful weekend!

    Comment by Heather Burchfield — April 30, 2011 @ 10:38 am

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