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Free oral, head and neck cancer screenings scheduled in Lumberton on April 23

Donnie Walsh, former President of the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks and an oral cancer survivor, is urging Americans to get screened for cancer during the 18th annual Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week® (OHANCAW®), being held nationwide April 12-18. Gibson Cancer Center, an affiliate of Southeastern Health, is partnering with Gane and Karshner Family Dentistry and more than 200 sites throughout the country to offer free oral, head and neck cancer screenings during OHANCAW, which is sponsored by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA).

  • Free cancer screenings will be held at Gane and Karshner Family Dentistry, 4309 Ludgate Street, Lumberton, from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 23.
  • For more information and to pre-register, call (910) 671-5762.

According to the National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 118,050 new cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed in 2014 and 13,890 deaths.  These numbers include oral cancer, throat cancers caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV, voice box cancer, melanoma of the face and thyroid cancers.  If all skin cancers are included, that number rises to over one million.  The fastest rising types of these cancers are mouth and throat cancer, which account for over 40,000 cases per year in the U.S. Head and neck cancers account for approximately three percent of all diagnosed cancers in the country.

Mr. Walsh, currently a consultant for Basketball Operations of the Pacers, has spent his life in and around basketball, initially as a player in high school and college, and then moving on to a 37-year career in the National Basketball Association, including coach of the Denver Nuggets and high-level administrative positions with the Pacers and Knicks.   In 2008, Mr. Walsh was diagnosed with stage 1 tongue cancer. Following a surgical resection procedure, which required removal of the affected part of his tongue, the cancer has been kept under control.

“An abnormal growth on my tongue was first spotted during a routine dental appointment, and I am fortunate and grateful that my cancer was detected and diagnosed early enough for me to undergo a relatively simple surgical procedure,” said Mr. Walsh. “My experience has taught me the importance of early detection and I encourage everyone to get screened for oral, head and neck cancers by taking advantage of the free screenings offered during OHANCAW at hundreds of local facilities throughout the country listed on the www.headandneck.org website. Early diagnosis and treatment can improve the outcome and chances of survival for people with these cancers. The ball is in your court…get yourself screened!”

It is now well known that the human papillomavirus (HPV) has emerged as a leading cause of oropharyngeal (tonsil and base of tongue) cancer, particularly in non-smokers and younger age groups. Over half of tonsil and base of tongue cancers are linked to HPV. Other mouth and throat cancers have been linked to smoking and alcohol use.  However, tongue cancers and other mouth cancers can arise in anyone whether they are smokers or nonsmokers.

“People with oropharyngeal cancer caused by HPV have a better prognosis than those who are negative for the virus, and promising new research shows that people with HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer have better outcomes with current treatment options giving them higher survival rates,” said Terry Day, MD, President of the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance. “These findings underscore the importance of asking your dentist and physician to hold a free screening and catching the disease early when it has a very high cure rate.”

About Oral, Head and Neck Cancer (OHNC)

OHNC is a common form of cancer affecting any part of the oral cavity, pharynx, throat, thyroid and larynx (voice box). Regular check-ups can detect the early stages of head and neck cancer or conditions that may lead to it. For those cancers caught at a later stage, treatment is available and may require various combinations of surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.  More information regarding the signs, symptoms and risk factors associated with oral, head and neck cancer can be found at www.headandneck.org.

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