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With cancer on the rise among young adults, here's where you can get easily accessible cancer screenings

Where you can get easily accessible cancer screenings
Where you can get easily accessible cancer screenings 03:41

MINNEAPOLIS — Cancer cases are on the rise in younger adults. While the median age for cancer diagnoses is 66, early onset cancer is up in patients under 50, many of them without typical risk factors.

"People will tell you that if it hurts, it's not cancer, but that was not true in my case," Amy Kalal, of Elk River, said.

Kalal is a two-time cancer survivor. In 2006, she noticed a spot in her mouth. A few months later she brought it up to her dentist, who thought it was just gum disease, as she didn't have the typical risk factors like age, smoking or drinking. After two dental check-ups over a year's time, she was referred to a specialist. 

"It started to get bigger and painful," Kalal said. "I was sent then to an oral surgeon, and she said this is not cancer."

A biopsy said otherwise, so Kalal then turned to Dr. Deepak Kademani. 

"She has the typical story that we see with many of our patients, where she saw multiple practitioners. She knew that something was wrong but there was a significant amount of time where she had a delay in diagnosis," Kademani said.

He was able to remove the cancerous part of Kalal's jawbone when it was still at an early stage.

Kalal's advocacy led to a better outcome than many; half of the time, head and neck cancers are diagnosed in late stages. Because of that, Kademani established the Head & Neck Cancer Foundation in 2020. The foundation is providing free screenings across the state this month.

"We only have about 60% of the U.S. population that regularly sees the dentist, so for people that don't have access to care or don't have frequent dental exams, this would be a great way to get screened," Kademani said

Statistically, 69% of adults are behind on at least one routine cancer screening, according to a survey by the Prevent Cancer Foundation. Health providers across Minnesota are working to spread awareness of early detection and make various screenings accessible to everyone.

Along with the head and neck cancer foundation screenings, Allina Health is now scheduling for free skin cancer screenings for Melanoma Monday on May 6. M Health Fairview provides free colonoscopies for uninsured or underinsured Minnesotans, and the Sage Program with the Minnesota Department of Health provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings to eligible women. 

Kalal says the key to surviving is taking action early and often.

"You know your body and what is not normal for you, and so advocating is really important. Catching this early saved my life, 100%," she said.

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