To fight oral cancer, Pennsylvania students focus on prevention

This April will mark the 10th annual Philadelphia Oral Cancer Walk & 5K hosted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. Through this event, dental students, with the help of faculty, alumni and local businesses, work with the Philadelphia community to raise awareness for oral cancer by performing screenings and fundraising for the Oral Cancer Foundation in its work to provide access to care. Last year, the event raised $18,000 for the organization, with more than 500 runners, volunteers and patients who participated.

Highlights of the ADA’s new oral cancer guideline

Whether you are a student dentist, new graduate, or experienced practitioner, we are always looking for ways to improve our clinical skills and provide the utmost quality of care to our current and future patients. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 49,000 new cases of cancer will occur in the oral cavity and oropharynx this year, with more than 9,500 deaths occurring as a result. A majority of these malignancies will be diagnosed as oral squamous cell carcinoma. As such, one of our most important duties as dentists is to conduct thorough evaluations to prevent unnecessary suffering and increase the chances of successful cancer treatment.

New screening for oral cancer could make for quicker detection

Oral cancer kills 40 percent of those diagnosed within five years. If caught early, the survival rate is as high as 90 percent. Scarier still, more than 1 percent of U.S. adults will develop oral cancer at some point in their lives. Despite these sobering statistics, many patients aren’t screened regularly for the appearance of oral and pharyngeal cancers. According to Matthew Kim – chairman, founder and CEO of Vigilant Biosciences – only 29 percent of U.S. adults are screened by their dentist. Part of the oversight, he explains, is a widespread lack of awareness and understanding of the danger of oral cancer. His plan, in addition to increasing awareness for the general public, involves a novel diagnostic test that identifies patients as high risk of developing certain types of oral cancer.

April is Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month

OralCancer_BlogPost_ImageWhile it may not be a part of our everyday dental concerns, the Oral Cancer Foundation reminds us that approximately 48,250 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year, with one person dying from the disease every hour of every day. Tobacco and alcohol use remain major risk factors for oral cancer, but they’re not the only ones. The fastest growing segment of oral cancer patients are young, healthy, nonsmoking adults under 40 years of age whose connection to the disease is the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is actually the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. These are sobering statistics and worth remembering as we commemorate Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month this April.