CINCINNATI—To raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of oral, head and neck cancer, UC health specialists are offering free screenings Thursday, June 7, at the UC Health Barrett Center.
UC Health head and neck cancer specialist Keith Casper, MD, says early awareness and diagnosis can affect the outcome for many patients with oral, head and neck cancers.
He says diagnosing these cancers early can mean more treatment options for patients, including less invasive surgeries that reduce recovery time and have fewer side effects.
The American Cancer Society lists head and neck cancers as the sixth most common form of cancer in the United States, but research shows many do not understand where these cancers are, what causes them and how they are diagnosed.
Signs and symptoms to watch out for include:
- A sore or pain in the mouth or on the tongue that doesn’t resolve or is increasing in size
- Pain around the teeth or loosening of the teeth
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw
- Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly
- Constant bad breath
- A lump or mass in the neck
Oral, head and neck cancer is more common in men than in women, and predominantly diagnosed in older adults with a history of tobacco and alcohol use.
However, says Casper, doctors have seen a recent rise in oropharyngeal cancer related to infection with human papilloma virus (HPV). Those cases have been found among typically low-risk populations, such as patients in their 50s and non-smokers or non-drinkers.
"It’s easy to assume that head and neck cancer patients are all long-standing smokers,” says Casper. "But HPV has changed the demographics of this disease. We’re seeing cases of HPV-related oropharyngeal cancer in people who have never smoked or drank. If we can catch these cases early, the better the outcome for the patient.”