Offering free head and neck cancer screenings annually to the community not only has the possibility of early detection, but also the opportunity -- particularly in an urban city -- to increase a person's understanding of risk factors that cause cancer, according to a new study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Among those who attend free head and neck cancer screenings, the study finds people who reside in an urban city like Detroit were more likely to be African American, a current smoker and have a history of treatment for some other cancer than those who live in a suburban community.
The study also shows free screenings and related education are well-received, particularly in a racially diverse urban community such as Detroit.
"Offering free head and neck cancer screenings to the community is valuable resource that has a positive impact," says study lead author Tamer A. Ghanem, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Head and Neck Oncology & Microvascular Surgery Division and division chief of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.
"Our study shows we have an opportunity to further enhance these screenings by including an evaluation of behavioral risks associated with head and neck cancer, and the patient's knowledge of those risk factors, such as smoking and alcohol use."
The study was presented at the 2013 American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery annual meeting in Vancouver, BC.
Head and neck cancers account for approximately 3 percent of all cancer cases in the country. Head and neck cancer can occur in the mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), swallowing passages, nasal passages and salivary glands.
Tobacco and/or heavy alcohol use increases the risk of developing the disease. Most cases are found in people over the age of 40.
Head and neck cancer symptoms can be vague, but warning signs include hoarseness, persistent throat and ear pain for more than four weeks. Other symptoms include mouth sores that won't heal or a lump in the neck.
Early detection not only saves lives, but also reduces the debilitating side-effects associated with this preventable type of cancer. That's why Henry Ford, along with other U.S. health systems and hospitals, host free head and neck cancer screenings each year during Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, an effort led by The Head and Neck Cancer Alliance.
For the study, Dr. Ghanem and his colleagues surveyed 118 people who attended the Henry Ford's free head and neck screening day in 2012 and 2013, to determine risk factors and knowledge of risk factors in a multi-ethnic urban area and a suburban population.
In addition to the free screening in Detroit, Henry Ford also hosts annual free head and neck cancer screenings in several metro Detroit suburban areas.
Participants in the study ranged in age from 23 to 85 years old.
Among those in the study, people living in an urban area reported more cumulative years consuming alcohol than those living in a suburban area.
Most notably, however, urban patients were more willing than suburban patients to volunteer to promote awareness for head and neck cancer.
Additionally, a larger number of urban patients felt the free head and neck screening program increased their knowledge of head and neck cancer.
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