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UW Hospital Offers Free Oral and Throat Cancer Screenings

Ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon Tim McCulloch, MDFor people who don't smoke, head, neck and oral cancers might be the last things on their minds.


But UW Hospital and Clinics ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon Tim McCulloch, MD, says "these cancers can exist in individuals who are not smokers."


As a means of promoting awareness of head and neck cancers and identifying potential areas of suspicions for concerned patients, Dr. McCulloch and his UW Hospital and Clinics ENT colleagues conducted free oral cancer screenings at the UW Hospital and Clinics Otolaryngology/ENT Clinic on April 26.


The Importance of Screening Examinations


"(The screenings) take about 10 minutes," said Dr. McCulloch, adding that similar annual screenings in years past revealed fidings that warranted further examination. People who have suspicious screenings are helped by nurses to determine the next steps of the diagnosis.


In 2012, of the 155 individuals that came for the free cancer screenings, 8 percent were identified as having suspicious screening findings. In other previous years, doctors have found patients with thyroid cancer and one patient with an advanced stage IV cancer of the oral cavity.


This year, 153 people were screened. Eleven of these people had suspicious results and were recommended to follow up with an ENT doctor at a later date.


Awareness Leads to Prevention


Being aware of head, neck, and oral cancer is important because people are not always proficient at identifying worrisome symptoms. The best thing patients can do for themselves is to catch any signs of cancer early on.


Persistent symptoms can often be masked or subtle, according to Dr. McCulloch. That's why it's important for people to engage in a conversation with a physician with experience identifying and treating the types of cancers that prompt these free screenings.


While head and neck cancers are still rare, one in 20,000 patients are at risk for a head and neck malignancy during their lives.


"Screening have made a big difference," said Dr. McCulloch, who further recommends them as "a straightforward, simple thing that we all can tolerate. There's no pain at all."