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D'Amour Center offing free cancer screenings

SPRINGFIELD More than 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with cancers of the head and neck every year. Many Americans do not recognize the symptoms of these life-threatening diseases and for some, by the time they are diagnosed, it's too late. Fortunately, with early detection the disease is preventable and treatable. A free oral, head and neck cancer screening will take place on April 14 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the D'Amour Center for Cancer Care, 3350 Main St., Springfield in support of National Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, April 12 through 18. The event is sponsored by the Baystate Regional Cancer Program, the Massachusetts Society of Otolaryngology, the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, and Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeons of Western New England. Screenings are available by appointment. To register for an appointment, call Baystate HealthLink at 794-2255. In recent years, head and neck cancer has robbed famed film critic Roger Ebert of his voice and much of his lower jaw and George Karl, head coach of the NBA's Denver Nuggets, recently announced that he has a form of the disease. Some of the common symptoms of head and neck cancer include a sore throat that does not heal or go away, difficulty swallowing and a change or hoarseness in the voice. "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," Jacobs said. "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." Early detection is the most significant factor in a cancer patient's chances for recovery. "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," Dr. Wilson Mertens, medical director, Baystate Regional Cancer Program, said. "Screenings available at our D'Amour Center for Cancer Care may help detect cancer at its most curable stage, when patients will require the least medical intervention," he added. The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, formerly the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation, raises money for research, education and treatment, and provides support to patients with head and neck cancer. The alliance was established in memory of Yul Brynner, an award-winning actor who died in 1985 of lung cancer after overcoming a pre-malignant growth on his voice box. 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 (www.entassociates.org), with offices in Springfield, Northampton and Ware, is the region's largest group of board certified specialists in otolaryngology head and neck surgery. Specialists provide state of the art care in the management of oral, head and neck tumors, surgical management of thyroid and parathyroid disorders, snoring and sleep disorders, as well as hearing and balance disorders in adults and children. For more information, call 732-7426 for all locations.

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