Woman warns others to recognize symptoms head, neck cancer

April 2-9 is Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Week

By Kirstin O’Connor - Reporter/Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - More than 40,000 people each year are diagnosed with head and neck cancer, and the University of Florida Health Cancer Center is offering tips on prevention.

"It was just a little raised area, a little bit of discoloration," Maggie Boone told News 6.

Boone said some people might have just dismissed it, but as soon as she noticed the small spot on her face, she took action.

Surgical oncologist Dr. Rafael Toro-Serra performs free screenings for head and neck cancer.

"Starting from the outside, skin, we look at the nose, (the) inside of the nose, the mouth, the inside of the mouth, the neck, the thyroid," Toro-Serra said.

He said that when they find something abnormal, or, in Boone's case, pre-cancerous, catching it early is key.
"Any time you hear the 'c' word, cancer is scary, but with any type of cancer, whether it's skin like in my case or something more major, the earlier you catch it, the better prognosis you have," Toro-Serra said.

Toro-Serra said prevention is especially important now, with the number of head and neck cancers related to the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus on the rise.

"Basically you're exposed to the virus, and it goes latent in your system, but it creates a reaction that eventually causes cancer," Toro-Serra said.

He said anyone with a sore throat, lumps on the neck or persistent sinus issues could be experiencing symptoms.

The free screenings are available to anyone, with or without insurance

"A lot of times people would pass that up and not think anything about it, but it wasn't supposed to be there, so I just wanted somebody to take a look at it," Boone said.

The University of Florida Health Cancer Center is offering free head and neck cancer screenings from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 pm. Friday at 22 W. Underwood St. in Orlando.

For more information, call 321-843-7021.

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