UI Health to host free, week-long cancer screening event

The University of Illinois Cancer Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry will provide free head and neck cancer and oral cancer screenings at community health centers around Chicago April 8-12.

Coinciding with National Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, which is sponsored by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance, UI Health’s week-long screening event will rotate among community clinics in Chicago in an effort to reach historically underserved neighborhoods whose residents may have an increased risk of cancer.

“The most effective way to eliminate cancer disparities is to drastically improve the chances that vulnerable people — those who have been historically disenfranchised, those who have had negative experiences with the health care system, and those who have been underrepresented in the very clinical trials that inform how we treat cancer — have the chance to reduce their risk for developing cancer or to catch their cancer early, when it is most treatable or even curable,” said Dr. Robert Winn, director of the UI Cancer Center and associate vice chancellor for community-based practice at UIC.

Dr. Virginie Achim, assistant professor of otolaryngology, helped to plan the screening event. She says that head and neck cancers make up about three percent of cancers in the United States, but unlike some other cancers, the screening process does not require machines or tests.

“A basic oral, head and neck cancer screening consists of a conversation and a brief exam in which a health care provider examines a person’s skin, looks inside a patient’s mouth and throat and feels the neck for anything out of the ordinary,” said Achim, who is a head and neck surgeon.

Achim says that all people benefit from this type of cancer screening, but people who use tobacco — including chewing tobacco — or drink alcohol should especially consider taking advantage of screening opportunities.

“People who have potentially been exposed to HPV, which is very common, are also highly recommended for screening, as an increasing number of oral cancers are caused by the virus,” Achim said. “This is also a very good opportunity for anyone to come in to discuss their health and ask questions about anything concerning they have been feeling in their mouth or throat.”

Achim and other UI Health head and neck surgeons and doctors will be on site at the screenings to help answer patient questions or provide initial consults.

No appointment is necessary to obtain a free screening, which will take place in UI Health Mile Square Health Center clinics and the UIC College of Dentistry’s clinic. Screening locations and hours include:

Monday, April 8: South Shore
8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Mile Square Health Center in South Shore
7037 S. Stony Island Ave.

Tuesday, April 9: Humboldt Park
8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Mile Square Health Center in Humboldt Park
3240 W. Division St.

Wednesday, April 10: Illinois Medical District
8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Mile Square Health Center
1220 S. Wood St.

Thursday, April 11: Illinois Medical District
8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
UIC College of Dentistry
801 S. Paulina St.

Friday, April 12: Back of the Yards
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Mile Square Health Center in Back of the Yards
4630 S. Bishop St.

Patients can call 312-996-2000 if they have questions about the screening and more information is available online.

The College of Dentistry will host an additional free oral cancer screening event on April 17, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at its main clinic, located at 801 S. Paulina St.

To coincide with World Voice Day, the College of Medicine’s department of otolaryngology will also offer free voice screenings for professional singers on April 13, 9-11 a.m., at its main clinic, located at 1855 W. Taylor St. Professional singers should call 212-245-7840 for an appointment, which is required.

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