Monday, April 14, 2014


Just say “Ahhh”

All you have to do is say, “Ahhh” — it’s that simple to get checked at a screening during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, which is observed April 20-26.

Oral, head, and neck cancer is a broad term that includes malignant tumors occurring in the mouth or oral cavity, which includes lips, tongue, gums, lining inside the lips and cheeks, and the floor or roof of the mouth; the oropharynx, which includes the back one-third of the tongue, the back of the throat, and the tonsils; the nasopharynx, the area behind the nose; the hypopharynx, lower part of the throat; and the voice box.

The sixth most common cancer in the world, oral, head, and neck cancer affects more than 100,000 people each year in the United States.

According to The National Cancer Institute, there are several risk factors:

•  Tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use are very important risk factors for oral, head and neck cancers, particularly those of the tongue, mouth, throat and voice box.
•  Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually-transmitted disease, has recently emerged as a leading cause of oropharyngeal (tonsil and base of tongue) cancer, particularly in non-smokers and younger age groups.
•  Family history or exposure to radiation.  While anyone can develop thyroid cancers, these are considered factors that may increase the risk.

Some early signs and symptoms may include:

•  A red or white spot in your mouth that doesn't heal or that increases in size
•  Sore throat or swollen tonsil
•  Changes in your voice
•  A lump in your neck
•  Persistent earachwe
•  Difficulty swallowing

It is important to note that the symptoms described here can occur with no cancer present, but having a thorough examination by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician can rule out any issues.

Speaking of that, Backus Hospital will offer a free head and neck cancer screening on Thursday, April 24, provided by ENTspecialists Gregory Lesnik, MD, Thomas Lesnik, MD, and Steven Green, MD.  Dentists also participating in the screening include Edward Yates, DDS, Richard Martin, MD, DMD, Robert Strick, DMD,  and Sami Yousuf, DDS. The screening will take place, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the hospital’s main entry level conference rooms at 326 Washington St. in Norwich. No appointments necessary; walk-ins welcome.

Last year more than 150 people were checked at the Backus screening – it’s easy, free, and might even save a life.  For more information about oral, head, and neck cancer, visit

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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