The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System will be offering free head and neck cancer screenings as part of National Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. The screenings take about 20 minutes and involve feeling the neck and examining the mouth for signs of cancer. Patients needing further evaluation will receive appropriate referrals.
April 21, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Mile Square Health Center – Main Location
1220 S. Wood St.
April 23, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Mile Square Health Center – Englewood
641 W. 63rd St.
April 25, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Mile Square Health Center – Cicero
Hawthorne Works Shopping Center
4745-51 W. Cermak Road, Cicero
More than 100,000 Americans were diagnosed with cancers of the head and neck last year. These cancers can involve the mouth, throat, skin, sinuses, salivary glands or thyroid gland.
Dr. Gina Jefferson, associate professor of otolaryngology — head and neck surgery.
“Most patients with head and neck cancer present with advanced stages of the disease because they think the sore in their mouth or that small lump on their neck will just go away,” says Dr. Gina Jefferson, associate professor of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery at the UIC College of Medicine. “By the time a cancer is at this stage, it is advanced, and the five-year survival is around 50 percent.”
There are also disparities in survival for head and neck cancers, with African Americans having poorer survival rates after diagnosis than whites. “African Americans are also more likely to present with more advances stages of cancer,” Jefferson said.
The most important thing a person can do to prevent head and neck cancers is to stop using tobacco.
“Anywhere tobacco reaches, there’s an increased risk of cancer. Lung cancer is what most people associate with smoking, but head and neck cancer are also tightly associated with tobacco use,” Jefferson said.
Almost 85 percent of all cancers of the head and neck are related to tobacco use, according to Jefferson.
“When tobacco and alcohol are both involved, the result in terms of cancer risk isn’t additive — it’s synergistic and can be a powerful force driving the development of cancer, especially in the mouth,” said Jefferson. Jefferson urges anyone with a lump or sore in the mouth or throat that doesn’t go away within two weeks to see their physician.