Free Oral Cancer Screenings at UIC

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s department of oral and maxillofacial surgery will host a free oral cancer screening May 12.

The screenings will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the first floor of the UIC College of Dentistry, 801 S. Paulina St. They are part of the 14th annual Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, a series of national events aimed at educating the public about the potentially life-threatening but treatable cancers.

“Almost 40,000 people are diagnosed with oral, head and neck cancer each year, making it the sixth most common form of cancer in the United States,” said Dr. Antonia Kolokythas, assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery and organizer of the UIC event. Most oral cancers form on the lips, tongue or the floor of the mouth, she said, but they also can occur inside the cheeks, on the gums and the roof of the mouth.

Worldwide, more than 400,000 new cases of oral, head and neck cancer are diagnosed each year, according to the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance.

Last year, more than 8,000 Americans died from oral, head and neck cancer. However, when diagnosed early, the cancers can be more easily treated without significant complications, and the chances of survival increase, Kolokythas said. Many Americans, though, do not recognize the symptoms of these cancers. About $3.2 billion is spent in the U.S. annually to treat head and neck cancers.

According to Kolokythas, some signs and symptoms of oral cancer include a sore in the mouth that does not heal or that increases in size; persistent mouth pain; lumps or white, red or dark patches inside the mouth; thickening of the cheek; difficulty chewing or swallowing or moving the tongue; pain around, or loosening of, the teeth; and a lump in the neck.

Tobacco and alcohol users have been considered to be at greatest risk for oral, head and neck cancer, Kolokythas said. But oropharyngeal cancer — cancer of the tonsil or base of the tongue — is on the rise in young adults who do not smoke. Researchers have attributed this partly to the increase of the cancer-causing human papillomavirus or HPV infection, which can be transmitted by oral sex.

“Oropharyngeal cancers associated with HPV are more difficult to detect, because they usually occur on the back of the tongue or on the tonsils, providing all the more reason to get screened regularly,” she said.

For more information about the screenings, contact (312) 413-9728 or email oralsurgery@uic.edu..

For more information about UIC, visit www.uic.edu

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