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Free cancer screening saves Livonia grandmother

Nancy Zeniewicz saved by free cancer screening

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FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. – Nancy Zeniewicz, of Livonia, is a long-time volunteer at the Beaumont Cancer Center in Farmington Hills.

When she heard the hospital was having a free screening for head and neck cancers, she decided to go get checked out.  But she wasn't worried.

"I didn't have anything wrong with me," Zeniewicz said. "That's how I walked into the office, and I found out that I did. They discovered I had a mass like a half of a grapefruit in the back of my thyroid area."

Further tests revealed the situation was serious.

"It was growing," Zeniewicz said. "This mass was getting so much that it was blocking off my air, my lungs."

Zeniewicz wasn't experiencing any of the classic symptoms, but ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr. Ted Schwartzenfeld said that many people do have warning signs.

"Hoarseness or discomfort swallowing, or spitting up blood or soreness in their mouth or pain in their mouth or throat, a mass in their neck," Schwartzenfeld said.

Looking back, Zeniewicz realized her voice wasn't projecting like it once had.

"People were not hearing. I would say, 'Good morning, how are you?' I'm at the front desk of the hospital, and they weren't hearing me," Zeniewicz said.

Head and neck cancers account for about 3 percent of all cancers in the United States. They're nearly twice as common in men as in women, and are more often seen in people over age 50.

According to the National Cancer Institute, alcohol and tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco, are responsible for at least 75 percent of head and neck cancers.

Screening is painless and non-invasive. Schwartzenfeld said any symptoms should be checked out right away.

"It's easier to treat something small than waiting until it gets larger and causing more problems," Schwartzenfeld said.

Zeniewicz said the diagnosis was scary for her husband and children, but after so many years as a hospital volunteer, she had confidence in the medical staff.

"I knew they knew what they were doing. I put my faith in them, and I prayed a lot," Zeniewicz said. "The Lord got me this far. He was going to take me the rest of the way."

Two and a half years after surgery, Zeniewicz is still cancer-free and urges others to get checked out too.

"A lot of people are living because they've had these screenings," Zeniewicz said. "Had I not come to this screening, I would have never known."

The next screening is Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Beaumont Cancer Center in Farmington Hills at 27900 Grand River Ave. The screening is free, but you do need to register in advance by calling 248-471-8120.

To learn more about head and neck cancers, click here.