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Head and Neck Cancer: Know If You’re At Risk — and Get Screened

Friday, March 31, 2017

The American Cancer Society estimates in 2017 nearly 50,000 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer, and almost 10,000 will die from these head and neck cancers.

Head and neck cancer refers to any cancer coming from the oral cavity or mouth, the pharynx or throat, the larynx or voice box, the nose and the sinuses, the thyroid gland, salivary glands, and the skin from the shoulders up. The important functions of these structures contribute to the daily function of speech, swallowing, and breathing.   Both genetic and environmental factors that can lead to these forms of cancer. Individuals may be at risk for head and neck cancer if they:

  • Smoke or have a history of tobacco use
  • Have a history of alcohol abuse
  • Engage in oral sex
  • Previously have had radiation to the head and neck area
  • Have a previous history of head and neck cancer

As part of National Oral Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week and in partnership with the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC), the Department of Otolaryngology is providing free head and neck cancer screenings Friday, April 7, at the ENT Clinic at the Eye & Ear Infirmary. Any individual at risk should undergo a screening for these cancers.

Gina Jefferson, MD

Gina Jefferson, MD

"I think the main impact of these screenings is providing information to the public," says Dr. Gina Jefferson, a head and neck surgical oncologist at UI Health. "At UI Health, our comprehensive team works together to find the best treatment for our patients. Head and neck cancer discovered at an early stage provides a much better opportunity for cure with modern therapies." Head and neck cancers also can be presented by the following symptoms:

  • Unilateral ear pain that is constant
  • Dysphonia (hoarseness) lasting two weeks or more
  • Neck mass
  • Non-healing oral cavity lesion, particularly after antibiotic treatment
  • Unintentional weight loss • Hemoptysis (coughing up blood)
  • Swallowing problems
  • Changes in external lip skin or other skin areas

Head and Neck Cancer Screenings

Friday, April 7 — 9 am to 3 pm
ENT Clinic Eye & Ear Infirmary, 3rd Floor
1855 W. Taylor St.
Chicago, IL 60612

Screenings take just 10 minutes and will be done on a first-come, first-served basis.

UI Health's team of experienced faculty strives to identify the best therapies available to patients. Specialists involved in diagnosing, staging, and treating cancer work together to discuss new patients and develop the best treatment plans at the weekly Head and Neck Tumor Conference. Visit the Department of Otolaryngology to learn more about Head and Neck Cancer services at UI Health.