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Free Head and Neck Cancer Screening: April 29

MADISON - "People have nothing to lose, but everything," says UW Health head and neck surgeon Timothy McCulloch, MD, advocating routine screenings for early detection of Head and Neck Cancer.
"Finding this cancer in the early stages saves lives."
Free Screening: April 29
To help detect head and neck cancer in its early stages, UW Health will hold a Free Oral Cancer Screening on April 29, 2009:
Otolaryngology/ENT Clinic, UW Hospital and Clinics
600 Highland Ave.
Madison, WI

UW Health head and neck surgeon Timothy McCulloch, MD

Timothy McCulloch, MD

Dr. McCulloch explains that there are usually no severe symptoms such as pain or bleeding in the early stages of head and neck cancer, which can affect the mouth, throat, neck, vocal cords, sinuses, tonsils, salivary glands and lips.

Instead, there may be an unexplained lump or bump in the tongue, neck or lip or changes in speech, swallowing or breathing.

Dr. McCulloch advises people to be vigilant about these slight changes.
"It's very important for people to report any minor changes or symptoms to their primary care physicians or dentists so that an initial screening can be performed," Dr. McCulloch states.
Benefits of Oral Cancer Screening are Priceless
While this screening takes only five minutes or less, the benefits are priceless. The cure rate is 80 percent or higher when this disease is found early.

Although smoking and alcohol are known risk factors, other causes such as viruses can also lead to cancer of the head and neck.
"We see this cancer in the young and old, in smokers and lately, in more non-smokers," says Dr. McCulloch. "Just because you're living a healthy lifestyle, you can't assume that you're not at risk."

Although free public screenings have the potential to save lives in a disease that affects about 45,000 people each year in the U.S., Dr. McCulloch says that people who should be screened aren't always the ones who participate in screenings.
"The people who don't visit their dentists or primary care physicians regularly are the ones who could benefit most from free public screenings, but often don't take advantage of them," Dr. McCulloch says.

However, the head and neck surgeon believes that a significant advantage of screenings is to raise public awareness.
"The real benefit of screenings is that it opens the door and allows a larger audience to learn about head and neck cancer," Dr. McCulloch states. "It also increases symptom awareness and takes some of the fear out of this disease."

For those who are hesitant to be screened for head and neck cancer, Dr. McCulloch gives an assurance that this is a quick and painless examination. He encourages people to view screening for this disease as a long-term, ongoing commitment rather than a one-time examination for now.
In advocating screenings, Dr. McCulloch says, "If something is found in a screening, this cancer is almost always treatable, and if nothing is found, a person has peace of mind."
'I Waited Longer Than I Should Have' - Pat's Story
It started with a tingling sensation on her tongue. But Pat Lahart didn't think much of it. When the sensation continued to persist, she finally went to the dentist.

"I waited longer than I should have," admitted Lahart.

When she did see the dentist, he found a tumor on the side of her tongue. He referred her to an oral surgeon who in turn sent her to an ear, nose and throat specialist. When the specialist biopsied the spot, the results came back positive for squamous cell carcinoma, a common oral cancer. Read Pat's Story

Date Published: 04/28/2009

News tag(s):  cancertimothy mcculloch

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