Free Oral Cancer Screening Clinic

Free Oral Cancer Screening Clinic: April 2022

By Polly Ubben, Speech Language Pathologist

Let your patients know! I am happy to announce that, with the combined teamwork of UNMC School of Dentistry, CHI Saint Elizabeth, Support for People with Oral Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC) members, local ENT’s, Lincoln Balance, Mobility and Cancer Rehabilitation, Aging Partners, Heartland Cancer Foundation, CHI St Elizabeth Radiation department, we are offering a free oral cancer screening clinic! This will be SATURDAY, APRIL 2, 2022 at the Auld Pavilion, Lincoln, NE from 9 AM to 3PM. Please let your patients know!

Oral head and neck cancers arise in the squamous cells of the mucus membranes. These cancers can be tied to tobacco and alcohol use, human papilloma virus (HPV) types 16 & 18 in the base of the tongue (BOT)/tonsils as well as malignant melanoma and adenocarcinoma of the mouth, nose and sinuses. Lymphomas can also cause cancer in the palate, tonsils, BOT, nasopharynx and/or lymph nodes of the neck. Unfortunately, many of these cancers have delayed diagnosis due to similarities with symptoms of common infections and even issues with patient denial. Many people often try to self-treat before finally seeking medical help when their symptoms don’t resolve or even progress or worsen.

Symptoms vary widely based on site and extent of the cancer. Laryngeal cancers may present with hoarseness or breathing issues, coughing up blood or dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Referred ear pain due to cancer invading the nerves of the throat may also occur, often mistaken and treated for ear infections in the early stages.

Floor of mouth cancers lead to complaints of pain, bleeding or poor fitting of dentures, ear pain, bad breath and even swallowing issues. Tonsil and base of tongue cancers often present with only a painless lump in the neck, though some people may also describe sore throat and difficulty swallowing.

Nasopharyngeal cancers, which is more common in Asian populations may present with lump in the neck, hearing loss, nasal obstruction, or, in advanced stages, damage to cranial nerves at the base of the skull. Unfortunately, over the last year we have seen delayed diagnosis with these symptoms due to COVID-19, both because the person assumes they have Covid or there was a delay getting in to see a medical provider because of Covid-19 burdens on the medical personnel and facilities.

Early diagnosis is paramount as cancer is much more treatable in early stages. At time of diagnosis, sending the patient to ST/OT/PT for a pre-habilitation consultation has shown to have many benefits.

Because the first week in April is Head and Neck Cancer Awareness week, we are planning a free oral cancer screening clinic for the community, hoping to help raise more awareness about these cancers and potentially help with early diagnosis. Please share the information with your patients.  They can also call Stacy Boden at 402-219-7258 for more information!