Annual Loveland cancer screening puts fears to rest

by Symptom Advice on December 2, 2011

LOVELAND — after her husband got thyroid cancer, Loveland resident Evi Buckner-Opler figured she couldn’t go wrong by attending a free clinic Saturday at the physician’s office where he got treatment.

“I thought I better have my neck checked to see if there was anything,” Buckner-Opler said just after Dr. Sarvjit Gill, an otolaryngologist at Alpine Ear, Nose and Throat P.C., gave her a head and neck cancer screening.

Buckner-Opler and most of the 100 other people who attended the 14th annual Northern Colorado Head and Neck Cancer Screening got a clean bill of health.

“Every year, we put fears to rest,” said Gill, who joined Alpine 14 years ago – two years after it opened. “Every year, we find one to three malignant conditions that can be life-threatening.”

More than a dozen physicians, as well as many other medical professionals and their friends and family members, gave up either the morning or afternoon to help serve the community at the Loveland office, 3820 N. Grant Ave.

The medical professionals came from Northern Colorado and Wyoming and included family practice physicians, physician assistants and nurses.

“You find a lot of people who are underinsured or who are worried about lingering problems,” said Dr. Chris Eriksen, an otolaryngologist and founder of Alpine, which has offices in Loveland and Fort Collins. “I look for head and neck cancer all the rest of the year. This is a little more different and fun.”

Eriksen likes that during the clinic, he and the other volunteers are not required to fill out electronic medical records, he said.

“The paperwork’s less. There’s no insurance woes,” he said.

Typically, 300 people turn out to the event. the word got out late this year, resulting in a lower turnout, Gill said.

Each year, Gill and the medical volunteers usually find 12 to 15 people with suspicious symptoms and refer them back to their family physicians or a community clinic with a form describing their conditions. They conduct a thorough history and examination of any potential signs of head and neck cancer.

Risk factors include excessive alcohol or tobacco use, and symptoms include a lump in the neck, a change in the voice, a sore in the mouth, a persistent cough, difficulty swallowing and earache or pain when swallowing.

The patients, as well as the volunteers, benefit, Gill said. the family physicians, for instance, learn how to do more in-depth head and neck evaluations, such as assessing the nasal passageway, throat and using a flexible scope to examine the vocal cords.

“The physicians also get a sense of satisfaction. They’re helping the community,” Gill said. “It’s nice to be able to do something and not have to worry about anything other than patient care.”

Darla Woodman, a registered nurse who works in the operating room at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, typically works with patients after they have been diagnosed with a condition.

“It’s nice to see that they don’t have cancer. They get a clean bill of health versus the patients we see,” Woodman said.

Shelley Widhalm can be reached at 669-5050, ext. 531, or

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: