UW Study: Free Oral Cancer Screenings Promote Awareness of Lesser-Known Cancers

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Madison, Wisconsin - A decade of free oral-cancer screenings at the UW Carbone Cancer Center identified abnormal findings in 12 percent of participants and uncovered seven cases of cancer while providing an opportunity to stress the impact of tobacco and alcohol on mouth and throat cancer.


During free screenings held every April, oral cancer awareness month, physicians in the Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Program screened 1,360 people for cancer. They identified findings worthy of further evaluation in about 163 people (12 percent) and referred those patients for follow-up examinations. Seven of those people were diagnosed with cancer. These included three cases of squamous cell carcinoma, two cases of papillary thyroid cancer, and one case each of a salivary-gland tumor and basal cell carcinoma.


In a study published online in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology* Physics, the UW researchers concluded that the screenings raise awareness of these lesser-known cancers, foster goodwill and create an opportunity to counsel patients to improve their chances of avoiding these cancers.


The people who came to the screening tended to have higher risk factors for oral cancer. Almost half were current or former tobacco users, including about 14 percent who were currently smoking. They were counseled on tobacco-cessation methods and the number of people currently smoking decreased over the decade.


Nearly two-thirds of those screened reported current alcohol use, and about 13 percent reported heavy alcohol use. The screening did not routinely include information on alcohol cessation or sexual behavior that increases the risk of contracting the human papillomavirus, a known cause of some oral cancers. The researchers concluded the screening program could be further enhanced by educating people on these cancer causes, as well.


"While it is gratifying to see the smoking rates decline, we can still improve prevention by explaining how alcohol use can cause these cancers and how the HPV vaccine can prevent them," says Dr. Randy Kimple, associate professor of human oncology, and one of the study's lead authors. "We're pleased to be able to offer this service to our community once a year.”


Dr. Paul Harari, chair of the department of human oncology, was the other lead author. Dr. Harari noted that "our UW expert team knows the value of increasing oral cancer awareness and the patients are highly appreciative of this screening clinic. Everyone benefits."


Other members of the research team include Drs. Grace Blitzer, Stephen Rosenberg, Bethany Anderson, Timothy McCulloch, Aaron Wieland, Gregory Hartig, Justice Bruce and Matthew Witek.

Date Published: 08/22/2018

News tag(s):  cancerpaul m hararirandall j kimple

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