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Keith Casper, MD

Keith Casper, MD
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Publish Date: 04/15/10
Media Contact: Katy Cosse, 513-556-2635
Patient Info: Free oral, head and neck cancer screenings will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at the UC Barrett Cancer Center Institute at University Hospital. To schedule a screening, call (513) 475-8400.
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UC HEALTH LINE: Many Ignore Signs of Oral, Head and Neck Cancer

CINCINNATI¡ªA persistent mass on your mouth, tongue or neck isn¡¯t just a bother¡ªit could be an early sign of oral, head and neck cancer.

UC Health otolaryngology-head and neck surgeons are hoping more patients get those signs examined by a specialist during the 13th annual Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, held from April 12-18, 2010.

To educate patients about these cancers and promote early detection, they¡¯ll hold free screenings for the disease from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, April 22, at the UC Barrett Cancer Center Institute at University Hospital.

UC Health head and neck cancer specialist Keith Casper, MD, says too many patients wait until the cancer has become locally advanced to see a doctor about their symptoms.

"Early awareness and early diagnosis usually affect prognosis and outcome,¡± says Casper. "We¡¯re trying to make patients and health care professionals, including dentists and primary care doctors, more aware of the signs and symptoms.¡±

Signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
¡ñ A sore in the mouth or on the tongue that doesn¡¯t resolve or is increasing in size
¡ñ Pain around the teeth or loosening of the teeth
¡ñ Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw
¡ñ A lump or mass in the neck

Tobacco (including chewing and smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use remain the most important risk factors for oral, head and neck cancers, says Casper, and even patients who have stopped smoking remain at a higher-than-average risk.

Recent studies have demonstrated human papillomavirus (HPV) as an independent risk factor for oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the tonsil or base of the tongue) among typically low-risk populations like non-smokers or non-drinkers. According to Casper, oropharynx cancer is the only head and neck cancer increasing in frequency largely due to the rapid increase in HPV-related disease.

"Many people have the notion that head and neck cancer patients are all long-standing smokers,¡± he says. "But HPV has changed the demographics and dynamics of head and neck cancer. We¡¯re seeing people who have never smoked or drank that have HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer.¡±

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