MEDWATCH: Head and neck cancers and the importance of screening


LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Head and neck cancers make up about 3 percent of cancers, and about 65 thousand cases are diagnosed each year. Doctor's 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.

"Human papilloma virus or HPV causes 70-80 percent of oropharyngeal cancers," says Dr. James Rebik, an otolaryngologist. "And the incidences of this is on the rise."

Dr. Rebik says there are things than can increase your risks, like smoking.

"Smokers have 5 to 25 times the rate of increase of developing head and neck cancer compared to patients who don't smoke," says Dr. Rebik. "Smoking, and the use of smokeless tobacco in combination with alcohol consumption raises the risk even more."

Dr. Rebik says its important to know the signs of symptoms.

"All the symptoms and signs may point to mouth pain, pain in the tongue, an ulcer in the mouth that doesn't heal, pain with swallowing, spitting up blood or the presence of a lump or a mass in the neck," says Dr. Rebik.

Dr. Rebik says patients who experience these symptoms should go get checked out. The screening is non invasive and only takes 5 minutes of your time.

"Early detection and early treatment allows for improved survivability with this malignancy," says Dr. Rebik.

Comanche County Memorial Hospital is holding their free Just Say Ahh Cancer Screening for head and neck cancer on Saturday April 21st, at the Leah M. Fitch Cancer Center. It will be from 8am-Noon. To schedule an appointment, you can call 250-6565. The screening will only take a few minutes, and it could help to save you or your loved ones life.

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