Last June, Alison Stahl, a registered dental hygienist concerned over the growing number of oral cancer diagnoses decided to do something about it. She reached out to her professional colleagues – hygienists, dentists, and dental product representatives – and anyone else she could find who was also concerned about this rapidly rising form of cancer.
Together they decided to sponsor a walk to raise awareness of the many forms of oral cancers and to help educate the public about the need for early detection through dental screenings. They thought they were setting a high goal for themselves when they aimed for 250 walkers and $20,000 in contributions. What they didn’t expect was the incredible outpouring of support from sponsors, individual contributors and people whose own lives, or those of a family member or friend, have been impacted by oral cancer.
The First Northern Illinois Oral Cancer Awareness Walk took place on June 10 at Lake Arlington in Arlington Heights. Staffed by a committee of passionate, committed workers, not one paid person and 100 volunteers, the Walk was a success beyond Alison’s imagination. There were 668 paid names on the list of walkers, and when the dust on the path cleared, $70,000 was raised from registrations, a silent auction with amazing offerings, and a raffle which sent the winner to the Hilton Cabo San Lucas for three luxurious nights. Proceeds were donated to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
Approximately 100 people received free oral screenings and several were referred for further analysis and evaluation. Early detection of oral cancers can save lives and reduce the possibility of the brutal effects of radiation and chemotherapy that are the typical medical treatments at this time.
“We hope that events like this will be held in more communities throughout the nation, so we can have a positive impact on the dismal statistics and increase the awareness of prevention, life-saving treatments, and support for those fighting the cancer battle,” Stahl said. “Please ask your dental professional or health care provider to perform an oral cancer screening at every check.”
Sponsors of the Walk were Air Techniques, Beutlich Pharmaceuticals, Family Smiles Dental at the Glen, GlaxoSmithKline/Biotene, NorthShore University Health System/Kellogg Cancer Center, North Suburban Dental Hygienists’ Society, Oral CDx, VELscope and Henry Schein Dental, Xlear/Spry, and Young Dental.
For more information about oral cancer, visit www.oralcancerfoundation.org.
FIVE FAST FACTS
1. This is the fifth consecutive year in which there has been an increase in the incidence rate of oral cancers. Oral cancers kill one person, every hour of every day in the U.S., and incidence rates continue to grow primarily from the increase in HPV (human papilloma virus) related cancers
2. When found at early stages of development, oral cancer patients have an 80 to 90 percent survival rate.
3. Human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted virus is the fastest-growing risk factor for oral cancer.
4. Although oral cancer exams can literally save your life or prevent a lifetime of disfigurement, very few patients are aware of the need for screening, and too few dental and medical practices are making screenings a mandatory part of their annual check-ups.
5. There are two FDA approved vaccines for use with various HPV strains: Gardasil and Cervarix are now recommended by the Center for Disease Control and the American Medical Association for males and females for protection against oral cancers.