Free oral, head and neck cancer screenings are being offered by the UT Physicians Otorhinolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery clinic on Friday, April 15, between noon and 3 p.m. on the 27th floor of the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza, 6400 Fannin St., in the Texas Medical Center.

No appointments are necessary for the screenings, and walk-in patients are welcome. The screenings, which are painless and only take about 10 minutes, are being offered in observance of Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, April 10-16.

Oral, head and neck cancers claim approximately 13,000 lives per year. However, there is hope; if diagnosed early, these cancers can be more easily treated without significant complications, and the chances of survival greatly increase.

Who should get tested?

Every adult. Tobacco and alcohol users traditionally have been considered the populations at greatest risk for these cancers. However, throat cancer cases are on the rise in younger adults who do not smoke, and recent research indicates this development is due partly to the increase of the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus. HPV-related oral, head and neck cancers are more difficult to detect because these cancers usually occur on the back of the tongue or on the tonsils, providing even more reason to get screened regularly.

What are the potential warning signs of oral, head and neck cancers?

The signs and symptoms of oral, head and neck cancers often go unnoticed. However, there are a few visible signs associated with these cancers that require immediate attention, including:

  • A lump in your neck,
  • A sore in your mouth that doesn’t heal or that increases in size,
  • Persistent pain in your mouth,
  • Lumps or white or red patches inside your mouth,
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving your tongue,
  • Soreness in your throat or feeling that something is caught in your throat,
  • Changes in your voice (hoarseness).

If you have any of the above warning signs, do not wait for the free screenings. Seek medical attention immediately.

-Andy Heger