It’s more deadly than skin, cervical, or thyroid cancer. Yet the general public knows much less about oral cancer, its prevention, and its treatment. Penn Dental Medicine students and faculty are hoping to raise awareness about the disease on Sunday, April 29, by hosting the 4th Annual Philly Oral Cancer Walk and, for the first time, a 5K run.
The run begins at 9 a.m. and the walk at 10 a.m., both in front of Penn Dental Medicine at 40th and Locust streets. Registration is $20 for runners and $15 for walkers, though additional donations are encouraged; all proceeds will benefit the Oral Cancer Foundation.
Held as part of Oral Cancer Awareness month, the event will also include free oral cancer screenings by Penn Dental Medicine faculty and a talk by Christine Brader, a three-time oral cancer survivor. Following the race, there will be music, food, drinks, and face-painting for all participants.
“I think it’s a great idea to have an oral cancer walk so people will recognize this as a deadly disease,” says Thomas Sollecito, chair and professor of oral medicine at Penn Dental Medicine. He is one of the faculty advisors for the student-run Oral Cancer Society, which is organizing the walk and run.
Between 30,000 and 35,000 people are diagnosed annually with oral cancer, and each year 6,000 to 8,000 people die from the disease. The good news, Sollecito says, is that “early detection does lead to improved outcomes.”
If the disease is caught in its earlier stages, oral cancer survival rates can exceed 90 percent. Later diagnoses, however, are associated with survival rates of about 30 percent.
In addition to getting regular screenings for oral cancer at the dentist, Sollecito says people can reduce their risk by avoiding tobacco and the excessive use of alcohol. Scientists also know that infection with human papilloma virus 16—one of the viruses associated with cervical cancer—increases a person’s risk of developing oral cancer. Sollecito says it is possible that the HPV vaccine may protect against oral cancer.
To learn more about oral cancer or register to participate in Saturday’s event, visit the Philly Oral Cancer Walk and 5K website.
Originally published on April 26, 2012