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Simmons Cancer Institute to Provide Free Oral Cancer Screenings

March 21, 2018

Head and neck cancer can be a devastating diagnosis, says Arun Sharma, MD, assistant professor of surgery at SIU Medicine. But if diagnosed at an early stage, patients have an 80 percent survival rate, according to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance.

Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU will offer free head and neck cancer screenings on two Mondays, April 2, and April 9, 4- 6 p.m. at SCI, 315 W. Carpenter Street, Springfield.  To register, please call 217-545-7493 and leave a message.

Parking for the screenings is available in the parking lot adjacent to Simmons Cancer Institute which is accessible from West Carpenter.

The free exam takes less than five minutes and is as easy as opening your mouth and sticking out your tongue. 

Regular check-ups and early detection can find a head and neck cancer in its early stages or a condition that may lead to it. Accounting for approximately four percent of all cancers in the United States, head and neck cancers are more common in men and in people over age 50.

According to Sharma, human papillomavirus, better known as HPV, has been associated with certain head and neck cancers, including in patients who do not have the typical risk factors for head and neck cancer. “Oftentimes, the only overt sign of an HPV-associated head and neck cancer is a neck mass,” said Sharma. “Like other head and neck cancers, when these are diagnosed early, they can often be treated with minimal long term side effects while maintaining improved chances of cure.”

SIU Medicine Assistant Professor of Surgery Pardis Javadi, MD, and Sharma will lead the screening effort, which is offered in April each year as part of National Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. Javadi and Sharma see patients at Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU.

Warning signs for head and neck cancers are:

  • persistent earache or sore throat
  • difficulty or pain with swallowing
  • hoarseness lasting more than one month
  • an ulcer in the mouth or throat that does not heal
  • or a lump in the neck or thyroid gland

People who smoke or chew tobacco, or consume alcohol regularly are at higher risk and should also be tested. Physicians will take a brief patient history, ask about potential risk factors and look for cancer that affects the ears, nose, mouth, throat, voice box, neck and thyroid gland.

The mission of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU is to serve the people of central and southern Illinois by addressing their present and future cancer needs through education, research, patient care and community service.