Bari Hoffman Ruddy, center, works with graduate students at UCF's Communication Disorders Clinic.

Cancer of the head and neck is the sixth most-common form of cancer in the United States. Unfortunately, many people do not recognize the symptoms of these life-threatening diseases, which can be easily treated if diagnosed early.

The UCF Communication Disorders Clinic, Florida Hospital Cancer Institute and The Ear Nose and Throat Surgical Associates will jointly offer free individual risk assessments for oral, head and neck cancer in observance of Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, April 12-18.

The risk assessments will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, April 15, at the Winter Park Memorial Hospital Medical Library, 200 N. Lakemont Ave., Winter Park, and from 11 a.m. to noon Friday, April 16, at the UCF Communication Disorders Clinic, 12424 Research Parkway, Suite 155, in the Central Florida Research Park in Orlando.

Each assessment is painless and only takes about 10 minutes.

“The face of head and neck cancer patients has changed,” said Bari Hoffman Ruddy, associate professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders and assessments coordinator. “It’s no longer the 75-year-old man with a long history of smoking cigarettes. There’s an increasing number of young adults diagnosed with oral cancer related to a strand of HPV (human papillomavirus) that may be sexually transmitted.”

An early indication of oral cancer is one or more changes in the way the soft tissues of the mouth usually look or feel. This can include a mouth sore that doesn’t heal or increases in size. For a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms, visit

Hoffman Ruddy said other changes, such as hoarseness, should be checked out, especially in someone who smokes, a risk factor for precancerous conditions in the larynx (voice box).

“Awareness of risk factors and early signs, as well as new technology, is allowing clinicians to identify precancerous conditions early and treat them effectively.” she said.

A panel of experts, including Hoffman Ruddy, will discuss team management of oral head and neck cancer from noon to 1 p.m. April 15 at the Winter Park Memorial Hospital Medical Library. The presentation is free and open to the public.

UCF Communication Sciences and Disorders students and medical students will attend the panel, assist at the risk assessments and distribute information on campus to increase awareness.

The assessments coincide with this year’s World Voice Day, April 16. The American Academy of Otolaryngology ⎯ Head and Neck Surgery sponsors the U.S. observance of this annual event to educate people about keeping their voices healthy.

For more information about World Voice Day, visit

For more information about the UCF Communication Disorders Clinic, visit