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Baystate Medical Center offering free oral, head and neck cancer screenings

April 3, 2013 |

SPRINGFIELD – Baystate Medical Center is one of the many sites worldwide that will be offering free oral, head and neck cancer screenings in observance of the 16th annual Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. Free screenings will take place April 10 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the D'Amour Center for Cancer Care, 3350 Main St. The event is sponsored by the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeons of Western New England, Massachusetts Society of Otolaryngology, and the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance. To register for an appointment, call Baystate Health Link at 794-2255 or outside the Springfield calling area at 800-377-4325. More than 100,000 Americans were diagnosed with cancers of the head and neck last year. Oral, head and neck cancers claim approximately 13,000 lives each year. Many Americans do not recognize the symptoms of these life-threatening diseases – including cancers of the oral cavity, larynx and pharynx – and by the time they are diagnosed, it's too late. However, there are a few visible signs associated with these cancers that require immediate attention, including: • A sore in your mouth that doesn't heal or that increases in size • Persistent pain in your mouth • Lumps or white or red patches inside your mouth • Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving your tongue • Soreness in your throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat • Changes in your voice • A lump in your neck. "As physicians, we need to educate the public about head and neck cancer and encourage them to get regular checkups and to eliminate high-risk habits like smoking," Dr. Barry Jacobs of Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeons of Western New England, said. Tobacco, including dip and chewing tobacco, and alcohol use are the most significant risk factors for head and neck cancers. "Eighty-five percent of these cancers are linked to tobacco use. People who use both tobacco and alcohol have a 15-times greater risk for developing these cancers than people who use either one or the other," Jacobs said. "Head and neck cancers are curable malignancies, but the degree to which a patient can be cured is dependent upon detecting these cancers in their earliest stages," added Dr. Wilson Mertens, medical director, Baystate Regional Cancer Program. Every adult should be screened. Tobacco and alcohol users traditionally have been considered the populations at greatest risk for these cancers. However, oral cancer cases are on the rise in younger adults who do not smoke, and recent research indicates this development is due partly to the increase of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a cancer-causing infection that can be transmitted by oral sex. For more information on the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, or for a referral to an oncologist, call the Baystate Regional Cancer Program at 794-BRCP. Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeons of Western New England, with offices in Springfield, Northampton and Ware, is the region's largest group of board certified specialists in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. For more information, call 732-7426 for all locations.

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