Mouth And Throat Cancer Screenings At Bristol Motor Speedway This Weekend Can Save Lives

Tracey Moffatt did not have the main risk factors associated with mouth and throat cancer, but that did not prevent her from being diagnosed with the disease in 2012.

It's a mystery to her caregivers how she landed on this journey, but this tongue cancer survivor, who also serves as Wellmont Health System's chief operating officer, is even more passionate now about the value of mouth and throat cancer screenings.

The Wellmont Cancer Institute and Bristol Motor Speedway are teaming with A Voice for Hope®, a nonprofit organization, and its Screening P.I.T. Stop®, to check for potential mouth and throat cancers this weekend. Physicians will screen people from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the speedway's corporate display area.

Moffatt urges people to participate in this free event.

"While you might never be diagnosed with cancer, that is not guaranteed, so taking a few minutes of your time to be screened could save your life," Moffatt said.

"It's best to be proactive because there is no hiding from cancer. It's pervasive and knows no boundaries with age, skin color or other demographics. That's why these free screenings are so important - because they can alert people who definitely have risk factors as well as those who might not."

This is the second year for the screenings. At the spring race in 2012, physicians saw 223 patients and found five people with concerning findings that might be mouth and throat cancer malignancies or premalignancies. The screenings also resulted in 56 concerning findings that were not specific to mouth and throat cancers.

Jerry Caldwell, the speedway's general manager, said he is pleased this partnership will continue in 2013.

"Wellmont is a great partner of ours - not just because of the response of their people when something does happen, but the care they take in programs like this to take preventive measures as well," Caldwell said.

Mouth and throat cancers represent 3-5 percent of all cancers in the United States, and tobacco and alcohol usage increases a person's risk. Smoking and smokeless tobacco contribute to 75 percent of mouth and throat cancer.

If they are detected early, mouth and throat cancers are highly curable.

  • Warning signs and symptoms are:
  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Hoarseness that remains for three weeks
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Persistent sores in the mouth that do not heal
  • Pain or swelling in the mouth that does not subside
  • A lump in the head or neck area
  • Unexplained earaches

Moffatt's journey began when her dental hygienist was convinced during a visit in 2012 that a small lesion might be something serious and arranged for her to see an oral surgeon. She underwent a biopsy of her tongue and was diagnosed with cancer. That led to surgery in July in which nearly 20 percent of her tongue was removed.

The cancer diagnosis shocked Moffatt and her medical providers to the point that a second pathologist was asked to confirm she had the disease. Fortunately for Moffatt, she is once again healthy, with some moderate residual effects, such as numbness and nerve pain, which are expected to subside within a year of her surgery. She credits her dental hygienist with saving her life.

Moffatt counts her blessings because of the early diagnosis and the ability to obtain the oral care she needs. If she did not receive that care, she could have lost even more of her tongue, which she said would have been debilitating.

"That's why it's important to have these screenings because, unlike me, some people can't afford regular oral care," she said. "If people can't afford to go to the dentist and don't go to the doctor, there can be long-term consequences. So if these screenings can save anyone's life, it's definitely been worthwhile."