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Prisma Health offers free screenings in recognition of April as Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

In recognition of April as Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month, Prisma Health–Midlands will provide free head and neck cancer screenings Friday, April 12, 8:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. at Prisma Health Baptist Hospital, 1501 Sumter St., classrooms A and B. Appointments are not required. Registration is available by calling 803-814-6409.

Sponsored by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, this nationwide initiative raises awareness, educates the community on the importance of early detection and screens as many community members as possible to help save lives. The screening includes providing a brief medical history followed by oral and neck exams.

Screenings, which are painless and last approximately 10 minutes, check for cancers in these areas:

  • Mouth
  • Throat
  • Voice box
  • Sinuses
  • Nasal cavity
  • Salivary glands

According to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, in 2019, approximately 550,000 new cases of head and neck cancer will be diagnosed and there will be about 300,000 deaths from these cancers worldwide. Risk factors for these cancers include tobacco and alcohol use. Those who use both are at greater risk than those who use tobacco or alcohol alone. In addition, doctors are finding a rising incidence of head and neck cancer, particularly throat cancers, in younger adults due to the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV). This potentially cancer-causing virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States.

Mariangela Rivera, MD, a surgeon who specializes in head and neck cancer, said, “The types of cancer we will be looking for are readily accessible by screening. It is free, quick and painless. It’s non-invasive and it can catch cancer early,”

Rivera, who is participating in providing screenings, emphasizes the importance of early detection in achieving the best possible outcome. She added, “Once these tumors grow past a certain size, there’s a higher chance of complications from treatments, such as surgery that can negatively affect quality of life in a dramatic way.”
In addition to regular screenings, it is helpful to be aware of the signs and symptoms. The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance identifies some possible indicators as:

  • A red or white spot in your mouth that doesn’t heal or increases in size.
  • Sore throat or swollen tonsil.
  • Changes in your voice.
  • A lump in your neck.
  • Earache.
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing.
  • Unintentional weight loss.

Erica Taylor, a speech-language pathologist, said, “If you are experiencing these symptoms or have any concerns, don’t be afraid to be your biggest advocate. Talk to a physician, push the issue and don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.”

To make an appointment, call 803-814-6409.

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