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MedWatch- Head and neck cancers

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LAWTON, OK (KSWO)- Head and neck cancers make up about 3 percent of cancer, and about 75,000 cases are diagnosed each year. Doctors say the earlier the cancer is detected the better chance you have of surviving it and that is what screening is for.

While head and neck cancers have usually been linked to people who smoke and drink, research is now showing that the Human Papilloma Virus is becoming a more common cause

"It's the same virus that causes warts, and things like that on the skin." Dr. Dale Smith, a local head and neck surgeon, says this is proving to be a problem for early detection. "So even people that we didn't consider to be at risk before, now can potentially be at risk, and not really even know that they're at risk."

This is why neck and head cancer screening and knowing the symptoms are so important.

"If we catch cancer early, many many times the treatment for cancer is very very good. On the other hand, if we catch symptoms that have been there for a long time, and the diagnosis has been delayed, then the treatment is much more problematic." Dr. Smith says a lot of patients will go years with health issues that they've lived with, and even taken over the counter medicine to combat, not knowing that it could progress to something worse.

"The number 2 leading cause for cancer in the United States is untreated acid reflux. Now how many people do you know that suffer with acid reflux. I mean the studies show that about 90 percent of people over the age of 40 take some type of antacid or proton pump inhibitor on a fairly routine basis. All of those patients are at risk," explained Dr. Smith.

Anything from pain in the ears, eyes, and face. Neck masses, oral legions, nose bleeds and even hoarseness, could all be early symptoms of head and neck cancer.

"You know if you've got some kind of symptom that you're worried about, come see us, let us look at it. We may be able to give you great news. And we may be able to fix it and then you don't have to worry about it." Dr. Smith says a screening is very noninvasive and only takes 5 minutes of your time. And, he says it's worth it.

"The peace of mind of being able to put symptoms that you're not sure about under the cover of 'hey we need to do something this' or 'this is not anything we need to worry about.' I think that's invaluable," said Dr. Smith.

Comanche County Memorial Hospital is holding their free Just Say Ahh Cancer Screening for head and neck cancer on Saturday, April 8th at the Leah M. Fitch Cancer Center. It will be from 8:00 in the morning until noon. To schedule an appointment, you can call 580-250-6565. The screening will only take a few minutes, and it could help to save you or your loved one’s life.

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