Dental clinics and ear, nose and throat specialists will be providing free mouth and throat cancer screenings on Friday, April 1, as part of Mouth Cancer Awareness Day.
This is the second annual “Oral Cancer, It’s No Joke” community screening event in Cayman. Those interested in getting a free screening can walk in or call one of the participating clinics to make an appointment.
People will be asked to complete a brief questionnaire, then the dentist will provide a quick, five-minute oral cancer exam. Throat cancer screenings take a little longer, so patients are encouraged to make an appointment with the participating clinics for those exams.
Dr. Andrea Campbell-Maitland, who will provide screenings at the Health Services Authority District Clinic in Bodden Town, said the screenings are quick and easy, and “pretty much just a look.” She said the screenings cause no pain or discomfort.
“We evaluate patients and their health history, and we have a look on their lower head and neck area, outside of their mouth for anything that looks a little different from what it should look like,” Dr. Campbell-Maitland said.
She said while it is a good idea for everyone to get checked, those who are smokers or have not seen a dentist in the last 10 years, in particular, should get screened.
Kathy Corley, a nurse at Seven Mile Clinic said throat cancer screenings involve looking at the back of the throat with a camera.
“Basically, it’s like taking pictures of the back of the throat, feeling nodules, and getting a good look at the different colors,” Ms. Corley said. “It’s not painful at all.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, throat cancer refers to cancerous tumors that develop in the throat, voice box or tonsils, and often begins in the cells that line the inside of the throat. Symptoms can include coughing, difficulty swallowing, ear pain, a lump or sore that does not heal, a sore throat, weight loss and changes in the voice such as hoarseness or not speaking.
Smoking or chewing tobacco, excessive alcohol use, the human papillomavirus (HPV), gastroesophageal reflux disease, and a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables can all increase the risk for throat cancer.
Mouth cancers can occur on lips, gums, the tongue, the inside lining of the cheeks, and the roof and the floor of the mouth. Symptoms include a sore that does not heal, a lump or thickening of the skin or lining of the mouth, a white or reddish patch on the inside of the mouth, loose teeth, poorly fitting dentures, tongue pain, jaw pain or stiffness, sore throat, and difficulty chewing or swallowing.
As with throat cancer, tobacco use of any kind and heavy alcohol use increase the risk of mouth cancer, as does HPV and excessive sun exposure to the lips.
Dr. Campbell-Maitland said doctors may also discover non-cancerous conditions during screenings for oral cancer, such as problems with cavities or with gum disease.
Those who are unable to attend on Friday can call the Cayman Islands Cancer Society to obtain a voucher for a free screening at another time.
“We’re hoping everyone comes out,” Dr. Campbell-Maitland said. “It’s your health and you don’t want to find out when it’s far gone.”