Lufkin doctors say oral cancer is on the rise

Dr. Sid Roberts
Dr. Sid Roberts
Dr. Johnny Alexander checks the mouth of a patient for cancer.
Dr. Johnny Alexander checks the mouth of a patient for cancer.

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Morgan Thomas - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Free cancer screenings for head and neck cancers were offered Friday at a Lufkin hospital. Diboll native Javier Guajardo decided to get screened because of traditional risk factors.

"Just smoked.  Just wanted to check it out and see what they would say.  See if the doctor saw anything," said Guajardo.

Head and neck cancers, which include those of the mouth and throat, are definitely more prevalent in tobacco and alcohol users.

"Those people who use tobacco whether they chew on it, suck on it, or burn it," said Dr. Johnny Alexander, a retired ear, nose and throat doctor.

It's become clear to Dr. Sid Roberts: these cancers are on the rise in East Texas.

"Most of our patients that get a head and neck cancer, throat cancer, so have a strong history of alcohol and tobacco use.  It's a chronic irritation over years," said Roberts.

That can be any kind of prolonged irritation. New research suggests that the sexually transmitted virus HPV could be one of them.

"In the same way HPV is associated with cervical cancer, we're seeing associations with mucus membranes in the mouth and throat," said Roberts.

Most doctors agree that early detection is key in curing these types of cancers.

"Let's find this cancer early before it spreads, before the treatment would cause significant disfigurement, pain," said Roberts.

Dr. Alexander, a retired ENT doctor says ignoring a mouth sore until it's a swelling in the neck, lowers your chances of survival. Tobacco and alcohol users or anyone who sees or feels changes in their mouth needs to get checked out right away.

"It would be better if I knew now than later on when I'm six feet under," said Guadajardo.

A simple, quick, and regular check-up could make the difference between life and death.

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