Screenings offered to fight neck cancer
People who use tobacco or drink heavily are more likely to develop head and neck cancer is the message to be delivered Monday through April 29, National Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, says the Association of Otolaryngology.
And that's why Henry Ford Health System will offer free head and neck cancer screenings from 9 a.m. to noon April 28 in the ear, nose and throat clinic at the hospital on West Grand Boulevard.
An estimated 55,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a head and neck cancer this year and nearly 13,000 of them will die, the group said.
While head and neck cancer can affect any age group, the association said most cases are found in people who are 40, and the cancer is more common in African Americans than Caucasians.
Head and neck cancer represents about 3 percent of new cancer diagnosis annually, said Dr. Adriane Concus, a senior staff physician in Ford Hospital's Department of Otolaryngology.
"While it is not prevalent among the other cancers that are diagnosed annually across the country, such as breast and prostate, Michigan residents are definitely a concern, because they are among the states cited for high smoking rates," Concuss said.
"If detected early, head and neck cancers have excellent cure rates, but if caught in the advance stages, treatment can be horribly disfiguring and can make it difficult for people to cope with because we all rely heavily on our speech and facial gestures for day-to-day socialization."
Head and neck cancer can occur in the nasal passages, mouth, throat, larynx, swallowing passages, salivary and thyroid glands. Warning signs include hoarseness, persistent throat pain, difficulty swallowing and breathing, mouth sores that won't heal and a lump in the neck or on the tongue.
Sometimes there are no warning symptoms at all, such as in the case of native Detroiter James Dixon, who was first diagnosed in 1999.
"I wasn't having any problems and went in for a routine check-up with my doctor, who noticed a lump on the roof of my mouth," Dixon said. "I saw Dr. Concus in March 2000, she did a biopsy and it came back negative."
"But I had an incident in July of 2000 where I had to go to emergency to be checked out for an infection I had it in both ears and, during that exam, the emergency room doctor asked me if I knew I had a bump there," Dixon said.
"I went back to Dr. Concus, who did a second biopsy in July and the test came back positive. She rescheduled the surgery and had to go in and cut deeper to remove all of the cancer."
Dixon sees Dr. Concus every six weeks. He said he has been cured.