Event Details: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., April 5, Doctors Office Building, 3660 Vista Ave., St. Louis, MO 63104

April is National Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month, and to promote prevention and early detection of these cancers SLUCare otolaryngologists will hold their annual free head and neck cancer screenings Friday, April 5, in Suite 312 of the Doctors Office Building. The screenings are held in conjunction with the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance and Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week.

Screenings will be conducted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Patients can park in the SSM Health SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital Garage on Vista and have their parking ticket validated during the appointment.

During the quick, 10-minute screening, a SLUCare physician will go over the individual's history, ask about potential risk factors and will complete a physical examination of the nose, lips, tongue, throat, voice box and neck for any signs of cancer.

Screenings fill up fast, so those interested are encouraged to reserve a spot ahead of time by calling the SLUCare Call Center at (314) 977-4440.

Mark Varvares, M.D.
Mark Varvares, MD

About Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer encompasses cancers of the throat, mouth, lips, nose, sinuses, neck, esophagus, larynx and trachea. Early symptoms of head and neck cancer may include a persistent sore throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or earache. Other potential signs include a lump in the neck, mouth sores that bleed easily or do not heal, voice changes and dentures that suddenly do not fit.

Head and neck cancers are relatively rare, accounting for only 6 percent of all cancer cases. However, the number of head and neck cancers linked to the human papillomavirus (HPV) has increased sharply over the past two decades, making screenings more important than ever."There's a common misconception that people who smoke are the only ones at risk for developing head and neck cancers," said Mark Varvares, M.D., director of the Saint Louis University Cancer Center and the Donald Marlene Jerome Endowed Chair in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. "That simply is not the case. Everyone should be aware of the potential signs of these cancers."

At the same time, Varvares warns that anyone who smokes, chews or dips tobacco or drinks alcohol regularly is considered to be at high risk for developing head and neck cancer. In fact, 85 percent of head and neck cancers are related to tobacco use, and people who use both tobacco and alcohol are more likely to develop these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.

"If everyone got the HPV vaccine, didn't smoke or chew tobacco and didn't consume alcohol, then oral cancers would virtually disappear," Varvares said.