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Highlighting Your Health: Head and Neck Cancer Screenings Offer Community Benefit

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Jamie Grubey, M.D., of Eastern Carolina ENT, Head and Neck Surgery, performs a head and neck cancer screening on a patient at the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Cancer Tower at Vidant Medical Center. For photo 4: A stand displays information and resources to attendees at the free head and neck cancer screenings at the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Cancer Tower at Vidant Medical Center.

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Vidant Health Communications

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

It is no secret that head and neck cancers, like any type of cancer, can be best treated with early detection.

But early detection can be tough to achieve due to lack of transportation, finances or other resources.

Now, local health care partnerships are making early detection and education key points of emphasis for at-risk community members through free screenings.

Vidant Cancer Care, in partnership with Eastern Carolina ENT Head and Neck Surgery, hosted a free head and neck cancer screening at the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Cancer Tower at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville in early April with the goal of detecting cancer and educating community members on how to prevent it.

About 60 community members from all over eastern North Carolina came out to receive a free evaluation that checked for lumps and nodes in their mouths and throats and on their head and neck. The screenings took only about 10 minutes per patient but the knowledge that participants gained can help for a lifetime. Of those, several participants were referred for a follow-up.

“These screenings are so important to help us raise awareness,” Janet Reimer, oncology nurse navigator for Vidant Cancer Care said. “When you find something early it really changes the whole trajectory of the whole disease; the surgeries may be much more minimal, you may be able to avoid all the other therapies you might need. All of that equates to better outcomes with less change for a patient to adjust to.”

There are several types of cancer that start in the head and neck region including lip and/or oral cancer, nasal cavity/sinus cancer, throat/laryngeal cancer, thyroid/parathyroid cancer and more. Many of these can be detected early through regular visits to the dentist and your primary care physician.

Signs and symptoms of a head and neck cancer include a sore throat that does not go away, lump, bump or mass in the head and neck area which can be painless, hoarseness or even nasal congestion.

Every case — and every patient — is different. Reimer said head and neck cancer is more prevalent in eastern North Carolina compared to the rest of the state. One of the biggest causes for this type of cancer is tobacco use — particularly chewing tobacco. As with many other cancers, those that form in the head and neck area can be treated with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

The hope, though, is that proper education about the dangers of tobacco and alcohol can help reduce the number of head and neck cancer cases, leading to a healthier experience for this region’s population. However, in the event that head and neck cancer already forms in a patient, early detection can be the difference between life and death.

“One of the biggest things you can do is maintain a routine medical follow-up,” Reimer said. “That’s so important whether it’s your primary doctor or a community clinic. You need to have a place that you can go that can examine you and give you the information you need to make choices that might help prevent these types of cancer.”

To learn more about head and neck cancers and the resources available, visit vidanthealth.com/headneck. For appointments, call 1-855-MyVidant (1-855-698-4326).

Highlighting Your Health is an educational segment courtesy of Vidant Health that appears twice a month. Vidant is a mission-driven, 1,504-bed health system that annually serves more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. As a major resource for health services and education, Vidant’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.

Need to know:

1. The No. 1 preventable cause of death in North Carolina is tobacco use. Ask your doctor for information and resources to help you quit smoking or using tobacco.

2. A little over one-third of the 29 counties that Vidant serves has a higher incidence rate for head and neck cancer than the state and national average.

3. At least 75% of head and neck cancers are caused by tobacco and alcohol use, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. People who use both tobacco and alcohol are at greater risk of developing these cancers than people who use either tobacco or alcohol alone.

4. Human Papillomavirus vaccinations in both children and adults can help prevent head and neck cancers.

5. Maintain a routine medical check-in with your dentist and primary care physician.

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