April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month and University of PennsylvaniaSchool of 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 2. The event raised approximately $29,000 in support of the Oral Cancer Foundation.
This was the eighth year that students in Penn Dental Medicine’s Oral Cancer Walk & 5K Board organized the event, and it was the most successful to date. The event drew a total of 401 registered participants – 286 runners in the 5K and 115 participants in the walk. Both the walk and the run started at Penn Park and finished at Penn Dental Medicine.
“Building awareness for oral cancer is our first and foremost goal with this event,” says JV Kracke, Co-Chair of the organizing committee. “We could not be happier with how everything turned out. It was well received by the participants, students, and faculty alike .”
The Penn Dental Medicine students who served on the organizing committee were Co-Chairs JV Kracke and Kristianne Macaraeg along with Mariah Pewarski, Maria Hodapp, Heather Chiarello, Anthony Albert, Naomi Sedani, Avi Benshitrit, Kaz Kitagaito, Akemi Arzouman, Jack Davies, Blaine Guenther, and Jon Shue.
The Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that approximately 48,250 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2016. 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.
“Early detection is key,” says Thomas Sollecito, professor and chair of Oral Medicine and a faculty advisor for the event. “The 5-year relative survival rate for those with localized disease at diagnosis is 83%, compared with only 36 percent in patients whose cancer has metastasized.”
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. Sollecito also spoke at the event on the importance of screening, where cancer survivor Melissa Morton also shared her story in which early detection played a crucial role in her recovery.
“The public needs to be aware of changes in their oral cavity,” adds Sollecito, “and see the dentist or doctor at the first signs of a potential problem.”