St. Louis — The Saint Louis University Cancer Center will hold its annual free head and neck cancer screenings on Friday, April 5 in support of National Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month. Screenings will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Suite 312 of the Doctors Office Building, 3660 Vista Ave.
|Mark Varvares, M.D., is the director of SLU Cancer Center.|
"It's a very short screening process. We assess their risk factors and then do a non-invasive three to five minute exam, looking in the mouth and neck for evidence of oral cancer," said Mark Varvares, M. D., director of the Saint Louis University Cancer Center and SLUCare otolaryngologist.
Head and neck cancers are fairly uncommon, making up about 6 percent of all cancers, but early detection can lead to a greater chance of survival, says Varvares. There are around 40,000 cases of oral and pharyngeal cancer in the United States each year -roughly 800 cases of these cancers are found in Missouri.
Head and neck cancers can affect the nose, lips, tongue, throat, voice box or neck. People at high risk include those who smoke, use chewing tobacco or are heavy alcohol consumers. These habits are the main cause of cancer in the front of the mouth.
Varvares says concerning signs that can be related to these cancers include dentures that over time do not fit, a sore in the mouth or tongue that does not heal, unexplainable bleeding in the mouth, an earache on one side that does not go away, a lump in the neck and difficulty swallowing.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is also connected to head and neck cancers and has become the primary cause of cancers in the back of the mouth - including the tonsils and the base of the tongue. According to Varvares, the viral infection that causes these cancers usually occurs decades before the cancer is found - making the annual screenings even more important.
SLUCare otolaryngologists have successfully detected cancer through the free screenings in the past several years. Once the cancer is identified, SLUCare makes sure that the patient receives the information he or she needs to proceed with treatment.
"We make certain that they get an official follow up appointment with somebody who is capable of taking care of them - whether it is in our practice or with another network," said Varvares.
If cancer is not detected during the screenings, patients will be counseled about the risks associated with smoking, chewing or dipping and drinking heavily. The SLU Cancer Center offers a smoking cessation program that provides tools and resources for those looking to quit smoking. This seven-week program was developed by the American Lung Association and is offered throughout the year.
Parking during the screenings will be free with a validated ticket in the Tenet Parking Garage. Priority scheduling for the free screenings will be given to those who smoke, chew or dip, and/or drink regularly.
The SLUCare Doctors Office Building is located at 3660 Vista Ave., Suite 312.
To find out more information about the cancer screenings or to schedule your free screening, call (314) 977-4440 or (866) 977-4440.