OCF to offer free oral cancer screenings in April 2012

Did you know that the fastest growing segment of the oral cancer community is young, healthy non-smokers? It's shocking but true. Exposure to the HPV-16 virus, the most common sexually transmitted infection, is now the leading cause of oral cancers in the U.S. There is little that can be done to stop this virus from spreading. Our only hope to save lives is through increased professional involvement and public awareness to generate early discovery of the disease process. To that end, the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) is encouraging the dental community to get involved in Oral Cancer Awareness Month this April 2012 by offering free oral cancer screenings to the public in a national effort to raise awareness of this silent killer.

Oral cancer has existed outside the consciousness of much of the public, which is one reason 37,000 Americans will be newly diagnosed this year alone. That is about 100 new people a day. That lack of awareness has contributed to this cancer not being discovered until very late in its development. By implementing a public awareness campaign, OCF wants to educate the public about the risk factors, early signs and symptoms of the disease, as well as the need for all adults to undergo an annual oral cancer screening. In the early stages of oral cancer's development, it is often is painless, and physical signs may not be obvious to an individual. This makes it a very dangerous disease and is also the reason it is crucial to have an annual oral cancer screening. OCF is asking dental and medical professionals nationwide to act as the first line of defense against oral cancer through the process of early discovery, and to raise public awareness of this cause by opening their doors for at least a half-day, during the month of April, to opportunistically screen members of their community.  

These screenings are more important now than ever. Oral cancer is one of the few cancers that are on the rise in the U.S. When found early, oral cancers have an 80% or better survival rate. Unfortunately, most oral cancers are found in late stages, when the five-year survival rate plummets to about 30%. Late stage diagnosis can be greatly reduced through increased public awareness of these facts, and OCF believes that a national program of opportunistic screenings is the best means of creating that awareness.

A visit to the dentist is no longer just about a cleaning or restorative procedures; when a dental exam includes a simple, painless, visual and tactile oral cancer screening, it can save your life. The Oral Cancer Foundation urges you to find out if your local dentist is participating in Oral Cancer Awareness Month this April by visiting OCF's event section of the website at http://ow.ly/8jzhN. If you do not see your dental practice listed, please encourage them to contact the Foundation for more information on how easy it is for them to participate.  Like other screenings you may receive, such as cervical, skin, prostate, colon and breast examinations, oral cancer screenings are an effective means of finding cancer at its earliest and highly treatable stage. Of all these screenings, the one for oral cancer is the least invasive and time-consuming.  It is also affordable and in many cases, it may even be free.

The Oral Cancer Foundation is a big believer in the development of strategic partnerships. In April 2012, OCF will again join forces with both professional societies and private sector companies who are stakeholders in this disease. The American Dental Association, the American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Academy of Oral Medicine form the core of the professional society sponsorship. OCF has also aligned with private sector entities Henry Schein Inc., LED Dental, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, who are asking their customer base to be active in this April's endeavor. In addition, the 21 treatment facilities with head and neck departments that participated in 2011's effort are expected to participate again in 2012. With the help of these partners in 2011, OCF was able to create over 2,000 screening sites/events, a ten-fold increase over any previous year.  These events, combined with 7 major walk/run awareness events coordinated by OCF, resulted in over 50,000 individual screenings for this deadly disease during April alone.  For 2012, the Foundation and its partners have set of goal of at least doubling those results.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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