"Potentially, we've saved 15 people's lives in this little effort," Organizer David Hastings said.
Gulfport resident David Hastings started the free oral cancer screenings in 2010 in order to help people detect cancer before it's too late. In the past two years, he estimates between 150 to 200 people have come out each year. In that time, he says, dentists referred 15 people for additional medical help.
Hastings is a cancer survivor and Senior Patient Advocate of the Oral Cancer Foundation. He has been cancer free for about six years and says he owes his life to his wife and her persistence in getting him to seek medical help. Hastings discovered a lump in his throat, but didn't have any symptoms or pain before he ultimately was diagnosed with stage four oral cancer. Hastings says screenings like this can save a life.
"The dentist will exam the interior of your oral cavity and if they see something suspicious, they will refer you to the next level of medical help," Hastings said.
He says some people who've attended the screenings haven't seen a dentist for years. He says the screenings have been successful and that's why they are adding another free service.
This year they're adding a simple prostate (PSA) blood test.
The PSA blood test measures the level of PSA in the blood. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland.
"That’s an early indication of the cancer. The blood work is sent off to a testing facility and then that is sent back to your address for notification," Hastings said.
If this goes well, next year, Hastings would like to add another tent for skin cancer screening.
“I’ve also been talking to Moffitt, to bring over a mobile unit that has other advanced screening. I’d like to see this grow each year.”
What: Free Oral Cancer and PSA Screening
When: Saturday, April 28, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Where: Walgreens parking lot, off 58th St. and Gulfport Blvd. S.
For more information or for a preview of the event, check out our video from last year's event, complete with interviews, on Gulfport patch.