The UTHealth Department of Otorhinolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery offered a free cancer screening clinic last April in observance of Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, sponsored by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, formerly known as the Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation.

“Oral, head and neck cancers claim approximately 13,000 lives each year,” says Ron Karni, MD, an assistant professor in the department. “If diagnosed early, we can treat these cancers without significant complications, and the chances of survival greatly increase.”

Oral cancer cases are on the rise in younger adults, due in part to the prevalence of the human papillomavirus (HPV). “Because the oropharynx is a large area, HPV-related oral tumors can grow quite large before patients decide to be evaluated, which makes routine screening and evaluation very beneficial. Younger patients often self-diagnose and ascribe their symptoms to less-aggressive problems for a while before seeing a physician, especially if they don’t have a history of smoking,” says Etan Weinstock, MD, FACS, who with Dr. Karni screened more than 100 people as part of the annual event and identified several lesions for further examination and treatment. The two physicians specialize in the treatment of these types of malignancies and are available to see patients with concerns.

“Participation in the event once again exceeded our expectations, and the department is planning to make this an annual event,” Dr. Karni says.