Philadelphia – April in National Oral Cancer Awareness Month and Penn Dental Medicine students teamed with students from Temple University to bring attention to the disease and the importance of early detection through the annual Philadelphia Oral Cancer Walk and 5K on April 1. The event raised approximately $18,000 in support of the Oral Cancer Foundation.
This was the ninth year that students in Penn Dental Medicine’s Oral Cancer Awareness Society organized the event , which this year drew a total of 474 participants – 358 runners and walkers, 81 volunteers, and 35 patients for oral cancer screenings. Both the walk and the run started and finished at Penn Dental Medicine.
“Every year, this event is very successful and it’s exciting to see faculty, staff, students, and the community all get involved for a great cause.,” says Kristianne Macaraeg (D’17), co-chair of the event. “We are always more than happy with the turnout, but what we want to do in coming years is to increase the amount of people who get screened for oral cancer- that’s what it’s all about!”
The Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that approximately 49,750 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral oropharyngeal cancer this year. This includes those cancers that occur in the mouth itself, in the very back of the mouth known as the oropharynx, and on the exterior lip of the mouth.
“Historically, the death rate associated with this oral cancer is particularly high due to late diagnosis,” says Dr. Thomas Sollecito, Professor and Chair of Oral Medicine and a faculty advisor for the event, “that is why screening and early detection is so important.”
Free oral cancer screenings for the general public, conducted by Penn Dental Medicine faculty and residents in the School’s postdoctoral oral medicine program, were part of the day’s activities. Dr. Rabie Shanti, Assistant Professor, Department of Oral Maxillofacial Surgery/Pharmacology, also spoke at the event on the importance of screening, where cancer survivor Janann Ewing also shared her battle with mucoepidermoid carcinoma.
“The public needs to be aware of changes in their oral cavity,” adds Dr. Sollecito, “and see the dentist or physician at the first signs of a potential problem.”
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