NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) - Early detection is essential in fighting cancer, and the first step is getting screened for it.
Every year more than 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with head and neck cancer, and many are benefiting from innovative treatment now available.
After six surgeries and radiation, former soap stay Colleen Zenk is battling cancer of the tongue.
"It was stage two. It was a tumor that was in what they called in the ventral part of the tongue," says Zenk.
"I just had another recent scare in the fall which turned out to be benign. Thank God. Dr. Sasaki woke me up saying, Colleen it's not cancer," says Zenk.
Dr. Clarence Sasaki, a well known head and neck cancer specialist at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven removed the actress's tumor.
"Historically speaking, the treatment of head and neck cancer have at times been worse than the disease itself. Very disfiguring, very debilitating," says Sasaki.
With advanced treatments such as the line of sight laser resection, that is no longer the case.
"The laser is a form of energy that when focused very precisely can cut very precisely, and if it's delivered through an optical system that allows a surgeon to actually see microscopically what's happening, then the results can be very precise," says Sasaki.
The high tech tool designed to remove early oral cancer can bend laser beams.
"Because it seals blood vessels the surgeon can see exactly what he's doing, and it means we're able to remove the tumor in the first pass," says Sasaki.
For Zenk, it meant saving a career on stage and television, and sharing her story with others.
"Be positive, to think forward, to have a bright outlook, a positive outlook and more than anything else get yourself screened," says Zenk.
Early detection is key to surviving cancer. Doctors at Smilow are offering a free screening Friday at New Haven City Hall from 10a.m. to 3p.m.
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