IU Health offers free cancer screening

IU Health offers free head, neck cancer screening. (WISH Photo/Jessica Smith)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — IU Health will offer a free head and neck cancer screening at University Hospital on Wednesday. Doctors tell 24-Hour News 8 they are seeing more and more cases of HPV-related tongue and throat cancers in men.

In the past, HPV has more commonly been associated with cervical cancer in women, while throat and tongue cancer in men has been linked to smoking and drinking.

“What we’re seeing more and more these days are otherwise young, healthy people who have not smoked or who very rarely drink who are coming in with these types of tumors which we’re finding are actually related to HPV and not smoking and drinking,” said Dr. Avinash Mantravadi, “At the current rate in the next 8-10 years or so, we’ll actually see the number of HPV related oropharyngeal cancers in men surpassing HPV-related cervical cancers in women nationally.”

Mark Sheets found out he had HPV-related tongue cancer in 2015, after finding a growing lump on his neck.

“I’ve been a non-smoker for 25 years…I had never imagined it. In fact, I was in denial that I had something wrong with me while this was happening. I thought I pulled a muscle, some type of bite,” said Sheets.

Sheets has been cancer free for a year now, but he said it was a painful process with lots of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery to remove 40 lymph nodes. He’s thankful doctors found the cancer early enough.

Mantravadi encourages people to get the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical, throat and tongue cancers. The vaccine has been approved for girls for about 10 years and is now approved for boys.

“If they offered that when I was a child and I had taken that vaccine, there’s a good chance this wouldn’t have happened. That could have saved a lot of pain and misery,” said Sheets.

Mantravadi said he knows some people may be skeptical of vaccines, but said there is no reason for patients to worry.

“There are no studies that show there are any detrimental effects to getting this vaccine in particular as well as any of the others. One of the challenges we’ve had in discussions with our primary care doctors is that they are still fighting a battle trying to get patients to get vaccines in general…but again, there is no evidence to suggest that there is any negative affects to this vaccine or others,” said Mantravadi.

Mantravadi said people should watch out for a persistent sore throat that last more than a few weeks, a lump in your neck or trouble swallowing that doesn’t go away. Even people who don’t show symptoms should periodically get checked out by a doctor.

The free screening is Wednesday from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at IU Health University Hospital in room 3170. No appointment is necessary. Exams should take about 5-10 minutes.

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