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The launch of the National Cancer Network: An interview with Debra Zafiropoulos, RDH

Aug. 31, 2016
Debra Zafiropoulos, RDH, explains the mission of the National Cancer Network, shares the story of how it began, details its efforts to increase awareness and improve early screening efforts, and invites dental professionals to get involved.

Debra Zafiropoulos, RDH, explains the mission of the National Cancer Network, shares the story of how it began, details its efforts to increase awareness and improve early screening efforts, and invites dental professionals to get involved.

On August 17, Debra Zafiropoulos, RDH, commonly known in the industry as "Debbie Z," announced that she had launched the National Cancer Network, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that aims to increase awareness and create an interdisciplinary network of health-care professionals who are dedicated to increasing earlier detection efforts to prevent late-stage diagnoses and reduce the mortality rates of a variety of cancers.

Apex360 interviewed Debbie to get more information about the National Cancer Network's mission and efforts and to learn how dental professionals can get involved.

Tell us about the National Cancer Network. What's its mission?

The National Cancer Network is a nonprofit built on a foundation of caring volunteers of all specialties and vocations dedicated to working hard toward a world free of cancer. Right now, we are working to build recognition of our mission throughout the country so caregivers and consumers alike can learn of our intentions.

Our focus is early detection and prevention through education and screening events. Our objectives will be to comfort and support patients and families diagnosed with cancer.Our mission is to raise awareness to prevent late-stage diagnosis of all cancers through multiple platforms of prevention, protection, screening, and referrals. Our intentions are:

• To rise up and speak for those already silenced by cancer;

• To support the caregivers, friends, and families who seek information and answers for their loved ones during the difficult time of cancer therapy;

• To create a membership community that is supportive of the mission of the National Cancer Network;

• To create a community of caring interdisciplinary professionals dedicated to disease prevention; and

• To provide resources on our website to caregivers and those at large who are affected by cancer and who want to join us in our vision of a world free of cancer.

We are also busy organizing educational opportunities across the country about preventive screenings, protection, and the value of qualified referrals. We encourage the public to participate in our programs and invite all passionate medical, dental, and health professionals to partner with us.

National Cancer Network is in the midst of building a revolutionary, one-of-its-kind platform for those afflicted by cancer. Our goal is to position NationalCancerNetwork.org to be the open arms and safe sanctuary with a human connection needed today by everyone dealing with the physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of being faced with a cancer diagnosis.

What made you decide to form the National Cancer Network?

A little over a year ago, I lost a childhood friend to an oral abnormality on the base of her tongue that was biopsied and diagnosed as stage IV oral cancer. She had just overcome triple-negative breast cancer with a double mastectomy, four rounds of chemo, radiation, reconstruction, and numerous hours of therapy to overcome the emotional impact of the breast cancer and its financial challenges.

When she was diagnosed with an advanced stage of oral cancer, she just could not bear the thought of battling it, knowing the type of radical surgeries it would require, plus more chemo and radiation. The oncology team explained that she would go through drastic physical changes, and she felt that she could not put her elderly parents through it.

She ultimately surrendered to cancer, but before she did, I promised her I would do whatever I could to raise more awareness about early detection and be her advocate here on earth. I formed the nonprofit out of despair of losing more loved ones to cancer.

What kind of efforts will the National Cancer Network make to train dental professionals?

The National Cancer Network is laser-focused on raising the standard of care for oral exams. Over the last 27 years in dentistry, I've observed that the oral exam is ill-defined and poorly regimented, and this is proven by the unwavering statistics for late-stage diagnoses of cancer. We are excited to have several invitations from organizations—not only in dentistry—to host training programs. The programs can be personalized to a degree, with the desired outcome being the creation of a one-of-a-kind organization that is on the front lines of training professionals and consumers how to look for abnormalities, recognize changes that are not healing, and to seek qualified professionals to assess the next procedure. We empower all entities with SOSA (screening for oral and skin abnormalities) technique training and support.

How will the National Cancer Network increase awareness among consumers?

Our consumer awareness campaign will consist of community screening events and local, regional, national, and international programs hosted via webinars, podcasts, and interviews I will be conducting called DebChats.

We are fortunate to have a diverse team of visionaries and a dynamic board of advisors who have come up with an outstanding plan of action to bring comfort to the patients, caregivers, and family members who may be struggling with the new home dynamics following diagnosis.

How can dental professionals get involved?

The National Cancer Network invites all specialties to be part of our mission. Get involved by contacting me or anyone on our team. The more, the merrier—we want to divide and conquer!

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

The National Cancer Network is a nonprofit dealing with a very tender topic, but we are not backing down. We are also accepting donations on our website, and 100% of the proceeds go to our programs. We look forward to meeting with companies, other nonprofits, and individuals who want to partner with us and help accelerate our mission. Our team of volunteers is growing!

Where can our readers get more information?

I am always available at (561) 358-7660 or [email protected].

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