Cowboy becomes advocate for Oral Cancer Foundation

Source: Idaho Press-Tribune/
Author: Kelcie Moseley

Brian Hill was a self-professed health freak.

He was an outdoorsman who had never used tobacco. He was a fit 230 pounds with 8 percent body fat. But a lump in the side of his neck changed his life in 1997.

Hill is the founder and president of the Oral Cancer Foundation, a small national nonprofit organization based in Newport Beach, California. He is an oral cancer survivor who contracted the disease through human papillomavirus, or HPV, which happens more often than people think, Hill said.

He is now a fierce advocate for more awareness of the disease, which is also often caused by smoking or chewing tobacco — and those two forms of tobacco are about as common with the rodeo crowd as Coors and Budweiser. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 14 percent of boys ages 12 to 17 use smokeless tobacco nationwide, and the rates are higher in rural states.

The newest effort to achieve more awareness and early detection of oral cancer starts with Cody Kiser, the new rodeo representative for the foundation.

Kiser, 23, is a bareback bronco rider who competed in the Snake River Stampede this week on his rodeo circuit. He graduated in May with a civil engineering degree from the University of Nevada-Reno, not far from his hometown of Carson City.

“We’ve wanted to (have a rodeo representative) for about five years, we just never found the right person who was the right voice for the foundation,” Hill said.

That all changed in March, when an employee at the foundation brought up Kiser’s name as a potential candidate for the role. Kiser has never smoked or chewed, which made him an ideal choice.

“I attribute a lot of that to my father and grandfather and family growing up. Nobody chewed,” Kiser said. “It just never was for me, and I just never got into it.”

He added that his family — particularly his mother — would have had plenty to say about it if they found out he was using tobacco.

Kiser agreed to fill the role for the foundation, and the Stampede was his debut. Thursday was the first day he wore a shirt sporting the logo and slogan, “Be Smart, Don’t Start,” down the sleeve. A few of his rodeo buddies had already asked questions about it by Thursday night.

“I tell them we’re just here to give them information about the risks involved and what can happen,” Kiser said.

More than 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a type of oral cancer this year, Hill said. It will cause more than 8,000 deaths, killing close to one person every hour. Of those newly diagnosed, only 57 percent will still be alive within five years. Hill is one of the luckier half, even though his diagnosis came when he was already at Stage IV, 18 to 30 months in. And even though he survived, a portion of the right side of his neck needed to be removed.

“It’s a brutal disease to go through,” Hill said. “… We have a death rate that’s just brutal. And if you live, you may not have a tongue, you may not be able to swallow food, people may not be able to understand what you’re saying.”

Though tobacco use is highly popular among rodeo competitors and audiences, Hill said the sport has moved away from tobacco companies in recent years. In 2009, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association ended its national sponsorship contract with the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company. Hill said that has made the sport more appealing as a family event, and it gives the foundation a good place to start. But he believes there is more work to be done, and the foundation will partner with Kiser to get its message into more rodeo programs and public service announcements.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “We’re feeling our way through rodeo right now, and by the end of the year we’ll have a better idea of what this looks like.”





*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.


Aspen Dental and The Oral Cancer Foundation join together and conducted over 2,400 oral cancer screenings in April

Author: Aspen Dental

SYRACUSE, N.Y., May 29, 2014 — Aspen Dental, one of the largest and fastest-growing networks of dental care providers in the U.S., conducted 2,420 oral cancer screenings at Aspen Dental locations during the month of April, resulting in a $12,100 donation to The Oral Cancer Foundation. The program, which included a $5 donation for each screening conducted, was run throughout the Aspen Dental network, which includes more than 450 practices across 27 states.

Since 2010, Aspen Dental has donated more than $63,000 to The Oral Cancer Foundation.

“Each year, oral cancer kills more people in the U.S. than other more widely known forms of cancer, including skin, lymphatic, thyroid, and cervical cancers,” said Jamie O’Day, Director of Operations for The Oral Cancer Foundation. “The funds raised through Aspen Dental’s oral cancer screening campaign in April are imperative to help OCF continue to sponsor research, provide patient support, education, and early detection initiatives which are all related to our mission. We are proud to be associated with an organization that makes oral cancer screenings a priority in their practices.”

According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 43,250 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014. This is the eighth year in a row in which there has been an increase in the rate of occurrence of oral cancers, in 2007 there was a major jump of over 11% in that single year.

“Unfortunately many patients are not familiar with the risk factors or symptoms that serve as warning signs of oral cancer,” said Dr. Thomas Nguyen lead dentist at the Aspen Dental office in Tucson, AZ. “In April, we met with many patients who were previously unaware of traditional oral cancer screenings, but were eager to have them done and learn more about the risk factors associated with oral cancer. We hope that our efforts this month helped to educate about the importance of detecting the cancer early on, when it is most treatable.”

To learn more about what to expect during an oral cancer screening, please visit the Oral Cancer Foundation website at

About Aspen Dental Aspen Dental is one of the largest and fastest-growing networks of independent dental care providers in the U.S. with more than 450 practices in communities across 27 states. As part of its mission to provide America with a healthy mouth, Aspen Dental is providing millions of Americans with access to quality, affordable dental care. Every Aspen Dental-branded practice offers a full range of dental and denture services – including comprehensive exams, cleanings, extractions, fillings, periodontal treatment, whitening, oral surgery, crown and bridge work.

In 2013, Aspen Dental-branded practices recorded nearly 2.9 million patient visits and welcomed more than 600,000 new patients. The dentists and staff at Aspen Dental-branded practices have a deep commitment to patient satisfaction, and every Aspen Dental location is accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

Aspen Dental practices are supported by Aspen Dental Management, Inc., a dental support organization that provides non-clinical business support to licensed, independent dentists.

* This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.


U.S. panel finds lack of evidence for oral cancer screening

Source: Dr. Bicuspid
By: Dr. Bicuspid Staff
April 9, 2013

A U.S. government-backed task force issued a statement this week saying that there is not enough published evidence to recommend for or against screening for oral cancer by primary care professionals.

Evidence is lacking on whether screening can accurately detect oral cancer and if earlier treatment of cancers found during those tests improves long-term health, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

Their draft recommendation statement applies to people who do not have any signs or symptoms of oral cancer and is meant for primary care professionals screening for oral cancer. It is not a recommendation about the practices of dentists and oral health professionals, the panel noted.

The task force — an independent volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine — reviewed the current literature and found:

  • Inadequate evidence that the oral screening examination accurately detects oral cancer
  • Inadequate evidence that screening for oral cancer and treatment of screen-detected oral cancer improves morbidity or mortality
  • Inadequate evidence on the harms of screening; no study reported on harms from the screening test or from false-positive or false-negative test results

Seven studies (n = 49,120) examined the performance characteristics of the oral screening examination. These studies were generally conducted in settings with an increased incidence of and mortality from oral cancer (India, Taiwan) compared with U.S. rates, the panel reported. The studies also had considerable heterogeneity and demonstrated great variation in test performance characteristics. Across the seven studies, sensitivity for oral cancer or potentially malignant disorders ranged from 18% to 94.3% and specificity from 54% to 99.9%. The positive predictive value ranged from 17% to 86.6% and the negative predictive value from 73% to 99.3%.

Two studies in the U.K. looked at oral examinations performed by general dentists among older adults (age 40 years or older) at increased risk because of alcohol and tobacco use and a mixed sample with unknown risk factors. The dental examination in the high-risk sample (n = 2,027) showed a sensitivity of 74%, a specificity of 99%, and a positive predictive value of 67%, while the study of patients with unknown risk factors found a sensitivity of 71%, a specificity of 99%, and a positive predictive value of 86%.

Although the patients in the U.K. study may be similar to the U.S. population, the results of these studies were limited by an imperfect reference standard, by combining the detection of potentially malignant disorders with oral cancer and an unclear delineation of high-risk status, according to the USPSTF.

“The evidence shows that it is difficult to detect oral cancer and that the evidence is not clear whether oral cancer screening improves long-term health outcomes among the general adult population or among high-risk groups,” stated task force member Jessica Herzstein, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “We need more high-quality research on whether screening tests can accurately detect oral cancer and if screening adults for oral cancer in primary care settings improves health outcomes.”

But Brian Hill, executive director of the Oral Cancer Foundation, took issue with the task force’s recommendations.

“I put no weight on what the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has to say about this since their determination was based on the evidence that no peer-review studies have been done to show that oral cancer screening has any impact on long-term outcomes,” he stated. “Lack of published data showing benefit or harm is only evidence of a lack of published data, not evidence of a negative finding.”

In addition, he said, “We know from the best database of disease rates and outcomes in the U.S., the SEER database [Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results] — which is how we track incidence, causes, and outcomes in the U.S. — that stage I oral cancer patients have better outcomes and stage IV patients have poorer outcomes. And stage I people have, besides longer lives, far fewer treatment-related morbidity issues to get to a point of no disease.”

The new recommendations, currently in draft form, are available for public comment April 9 through May 6.


* This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.


Be a trendsetter for oral cancer screenings

By Trish De Dios
April 18, 2013

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. We are well-trained in hygiene school to perform a non-invasive visual and tactile oral cancer screening. We perform it on every patient we see and the patients of our school clinic are accustomed to the comprehensive nature of the exam we perform. We then are set free from the chains of dental hygiene school and unleashed into the world of professional private practice. Unfortunately, the transition from school to work can cause us to cut corners and be negligent in our oral cancer screening, due in part to the demands of being in private practice. Employers are often apprehensive of the time constraints of the exam and may be misinformed regarding how screenings would take place in their practice.

My advice to the new grad is stay true to your ethical and clinical standards of care. Do not deviate from being thorough in your oral cancer screenings because of your newly acquired degree or work position. The most important part of a patient’s hygiene visit is this potentially life-saving exam, and once your patients and employer realize this, they will never undermine your clinical protocol. In addition to the great service you are providing your patients, it is a good business practice to create value in the dental hygiene appointment. Your patients are not just getting their teeth cleaned – convey to your employer and patients that when you are their hygienist, the hygiene visit will consist of a comprehensive oral cancer screening, gum disease screening, shade assessment, identification of contributing factors for diseases, and tailored dental hygiene recommendations. Then, of course, when you discuss the debridement part of the appointment, you should be sure to highlight that you wear magnification loupes and light. For the best scaling, you maintain your instruments to always have a sharp cutting edge. Even if you can’t apply all those things to your practice, the priority of the oral cancer screening should be applicable to every hygienist.

Oral Cancer Flair
Believe it or not, Oral Cancer Awareness is in style and conveniently easy for you to acquire. Did you know the Oral Cancer Foundation will gladly send you promotional awareness bracelets, buttons, and brochures for you to have available for you and your patients? These items are complimentary and I think it represents one of the most valuable things this organization does. Something as simple as sporting a burgundy oral cancer band can generate interest, imply priority, provoke change, and promote awareness. It makes a statement to me when an entire office is wearing professional lab coats and black clinical shoes and use magnifier loupes and a headlight. Now, take it a step further and imagine all those team members have completed their uniform with a burgundy oral cancer awareness bracelet. To me, this seemingly insignificant accessory is a true catalyst in spreading awareness about oral cancer and thus, saving lives. I challenge you to wear a band for at least one work week of your clinical hygiene practice. The questions it provokes and the opportunities it affords you to discuss oral cancer and your role as an early detection screener will prove invaluable to you. April the month devoted to oral cancer awareness, but since we are screening for oral cancer every single work day, I encourage you to make oral cancer awareness part of your daily uniform as you would your loupes and scrubs. Be a trendsetter for your office and colleagues. If you are looking to go a step further when it comes to patient education, and if burgundy matches your operatory décor, please visit the event page for the Oral Cancer Foundation. Under the tab “Getting Involved,” you will find printable fact posters you can frame for your operatory. Need to review your screening sequence? You will also find under this tab a video demonstration of a comprehensive exam. If you would like to know more about how to get involved with the Oral Cancer Foundation, feel free to email me at

Trish De Dios, RDH, graduated as president of her dental hygiene class in 2008. She currently works full-time clinically and is also a regional coordinator for The Oral Cancer Foundation. She can be contacted at


* This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.


HPV and oral cancer

Date: Feb 21, 2013 4:02 PM PST  Updated: Feb 25, 2013 2:07 PM PST


Oral cancer is being diagnosed at near epidemic proportions, and in many cases it strikes those people who would least suspect it.

At 28, Jessica Tar appeared young and healthy. That is why she was floored to find out she had oral cancer; a small tumor was growing on her tongue.

“It was just this raised area, and pain from time to time,” Tar says.

They are symptoms many of may have ignored, but thankfully Jessica did not. Her cancer was caught early and had not spread.

She went to Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Dr. Jatin Shah for treatment. He recommended a surgery to remove part of her tongue, an aggressive treatment that threatened her career as an actress and singer.

“They tell you your mouth is going to be rearranged. The tip of your tongue, where you thought it once was, it won’t be there anymore,” Tar says.

Jessica Tar was anxious to get back to work, so she underwent extensive speech therapy. The hardest thing for her to pronounce was the letter S.

Jessica knew she want to work hard at it and she had the ultimate motivation, a specific name in mind for her daughter on the way.

“I said to my speech therapist if I can’t improve on these S’s I don’t think I’m going to name her Kalista, but I got better and the day she was born, we named her Kalista.”

Today Jessica is cancer-free, but doctors have never been able to pinpoint the cause of her cancer. “When you think of oral cancer the picture that comes to into your head is someone who smokes and drinks heavily. I’m neither of those things,” Tar says.

Even Dr. Shah was surprised by Jessica’s cancer diagnosis. Smoking and drinking are the most common risk factors, but that is changing.

The biggest risk factor now is the sexually transmitted virus called HPV, the same virus that can cause cervical cancer. Jessica did not have HPV, either.

But many being diagnosed now do. The Oral Cancer Foundation says 40,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year alone, the majority of those cases will be tied to HPV.

“Of the 100 patients coming in today with oral pharynx cancer I would say 80 percent will be HPV-positive,” says Dr. Shah.

And experts say that number is climbing in almost epidemic proportions.

Celebrities Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Blythe Danner are helping spread the work about the potentially deadly disease.

Michael Douglas has battled oral cancer for several years.

Bruce Paltrow, Gwenth’s father and Blythe Danner’s husband, died from it download illustrator cs6.

“There is an epidemic of oral cancer among young people, unfortunately due to oral sex,” says Blythe Danner.

It’s not just young people, you can live with HPV for years and never know you have it, there is no way to screen for the virus and in most cases it doesn’t have any symptoms.

That is why at 52, Kevin Pruyne’s oral cancer diagnosis was a shock.

“I went to see my general doctor and she felt like it was just an infection or something like that and did the antibiotics,” says Kevin Pruyne.

After several months and rounds of antibiotics, Kevin’s ‘infection’ seemed to be getting worse.

Finally a CT scan and biopsy determined Kevin had stage 4 cancer, the cause?

The sexually transmitted virus HPV, Kevin didn’t know he had it or that it could cause cancer.

“You don’t talk about it but we have been monogamous for 30 years,” Kevin says.

Kevin and his wife, Kathy, were worried the cancer had taken too long to diagnose.

“If it’s gone past your collar bone and into your lungs its game over,” Kevin says.

Thankfully the cancer hadn’t reached his lungs. Kevin underwent an aggressive treatment of radiation and chemotherapy.

“He was sick, he was really sick and it was hard to see and watch him vomiting becoming less of the strong man that he was,” Kathy says.

Doctors say HPV-positive cancers are typically curable. A couple of months ago Kevin got the good news he is cancer free, but he still worries.

“You say what is my prognosis, you make up 5 years we will call you cured unless it pops up somewhere else,” Kevin says.

Kevin wishes he knew the dangers of HPV. Now he is warning everyone he knows.

“I’ve got some guys that I work with that are younger and have a tendency to be a bit more promiscuous than they should so I sent a letter saying listen this is what caused my cancer and you all need to be careful,” Kevin says.

The early symptoms of oral cancer, like a sore throat can easily go undetected, so early screening is important.

Dentists are now starting to do comprehensive oral cancer screenings.

Upper East Side Doctor Robert Friedman uses a florescent light to look for irregularities in the mouth.

“Your dentist is your mouth specialist,” Dr. Friedman says. “Dentists really should be the first line of detection of these types of known entities.”

Fluorescent light cancer screenings aren’t covered by most dental insurance policies, but it typically costs only $25.

There is a vaccine against HPV, Gardasil, which can be administered to pre-pubescent girls and boys.

A screening will be held in April:
Thursday, April 25, 2013
9:00 am – 12:00 Noon
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Enid A. Haupt Pavilion
425 East 67th Street
Fourth Floor, Suite 5
Between York and First Avenues

No appointment necessary. For further information, call 646-497-9161.

For More Information:


* This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.



The Oral Cancer Foundation Honored as 2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Source: The Oral Cancer Foundation

New Award is Based on Positive Online Reviews

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., Dec. 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Oral Cancer Foundation announced today that it has been honored with a prestigious 2012 Top-Rated Award by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations.

“We are excited to be named a Top-Rated 2012 Nonprofit,” says Brian Hill , Founder and Executive Director, The Oral Cancer Foundation.  “We are proud of our accomplishments this year, including the public service announcement we filmed with Actor and oral cancer survivor, Michael Douglas .”

The Top-Rated Nonprofit award was based on the large number of positive reviews that OCF received – reviews written by volunteers, donors and clients. People posted their personal experience with the nonprofit.  For example, one person wrote, “I was 33 years old when I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic Oral Cancer. The treatments and surgeries that saved my life however left me disfigured, disabled, and dependent on the opiate pain medication, Fentanyl. I felt lost and alone, without hope. I found the Oral Cancer Foundation website 11 months after diagnosis and it was a ray of light for me. I was able to connect with survivors and other patients who understood my struggle and relate to where I was. With their advice and support I’ve been able to rebuild my body and free myself from the opiates, and begin to live again. I can’t express the gratitude in my heart for the Oral Cancer Foundation or the Angels of mercy who are the staff and volunteers that spend their time helping those in need.”

Being on the Top-Rated List comes at an important time of the year, as donors look for causes to support during the holiday season.

“We are gratified by The Oral Cancer Foundation for its work,” said Perla Ni , CEO of GreatNonprofits, “They deserve to be discovered by more donors and volunteers who are looking for a great nonprofit to support.”

Being on the Top-Rated list gives donors and volunteers more confidence that this is a credible organization.  The reviews by volunteers, clients and other donors show the on-the-ground results of this nonprofit.  This award is a form of recognition by the community.

About The Oral Cancer Foundation
The Oral Cancer Foundation is a non-profit 501(c) 3, public service charity that provides information, support, and advocacy related to this disease. It maintains a web site at, which receives millions of hits per month. At the forefront of this year’s agenda is the drive to promote solid awareness in the minds of the American public about the need to undergo an annual oral cancer screening, and an outreach to the dental community to provide this service as a matter of routine practice. Supporting the foundation’s goals is a scientific advisory board composed of leading cancer authorities from varied medical and dental specialties, and from prominent cancer educational, treatment, and research institutions in the United States.

About GreatNonprofits
GreatNonprofits is the leading site for donors and volunteers to find reviews and ratings of nonprofits. Its mission is to inspire and inform donors and volunteers, enable nonprofits to show their impact, and promote greater feedback and transparency.


2012-12-14T15:17:40-07:00December, 2012|OCF In The News|



Even with our best efforts, oral cancer continues to have a nearly 50% mortality rate at five years. This equals 40,000 deaths annually in the United States with 370,000 worldwide. It is predicted that there will be a world-wide oral cancer epidemic by mid-21st century. Predictions are based on what has been and current situations. The wonderful part of predictions is they can be wrong. Two people, Alison Stahl and Eric Statler, are leading the way to circumvent that future death rate. They challenge all of us across the country not to be reactive — but rather to be proactive in our approach.

Volunteers welcome participants to the oral cancer walk.


Eric Statler is a stage IV oral cancer survivor. As happens far too often, he was initially misdiagnosed and thought to be experiencing pain related to wisdom teeth. An infection that followed his extractions was treated with antibiotics and he was dismissed. With no resolution and increasing pain, he went back to the dentist who immediately referred him to a specialist.

Someone You Should Know: (from left to right:) Mike Stahl, Kim Benkert, Denise Snarski, Bonnie Chisholm-Green, Trish DeDios, Patti DiGangi, Donna Grzegorek, Alison Stahl, Amy Frazin, Lois Roewade, Ewa Posorski, Tracy Fritz, Zuzana Buc, Cynthia Pfeiffer, and Eric Stadler.


At the age of 33, Eric was diagnosed with stage IV HPV related oral cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments followed along with multiple disfiguring surgeries and some facial paralysis. Treatments were initially unsuccessful; cancer was winning the battle. Eric, once the epitome of health, was near death. Due to the extreme pain of his care, his medical team prescribed an addictive medication protocol. This oft told story could have been different.

Alison Stahl, RDH, BS, lives in the Chicago area, the home to the ADA, ADHA, Chicago Dental Soceity, and countless numbers of dentists and specialists. Alison put Illinois on the map when it comes to oral cancer awareness and advocacy. As a passionate dental hygiene professional, Alison says she simply wanted to be more involved and initially to be a volunteer for a cause that supported oral cancer awareness.

When finding no local charitable event for this devastating disease, she decided she would start one herself. It was difficult to know just how large this event would be but the decision to start a charity walk in Illinois could not be delayed any further. People are dying every hour from this disease, yet the public remains very unaware of current risk factors. The Northern Illinois Oral Cancer Awareness (NILOCA) was born. Alison’s vision and thousands of hours of hard work have become a reality giving oral cancer a louder voice.

Alison knew she couldn’t do it alone. She created a committee of people — mostly unknown to each other before this effort — bonded by their passion to bring public awareness to this dreaded disease. Many students, dental, and dental hygiene professionals stepped up as volunteers to make this event possible as well as many generous sponsors.

It took an entire year of planning but the day finally arrived. On June 10, 2012, by 8 a.m., the committee welcomed over 600 registered participants for the event. Families walked in honor of those they had lost. Survivors found comfort and community through this event. Dental professionals were inspired and have vowed to never miss an opportunity to perform that life-saving exam. The walk broke all records for an inaugural event, grossing just over $70,000 as well as breaking all records to date at the Oral Cancer Foundation ( for attendance and fundraising.

Eric was a guest speaker and helped participants understand that he is a thriving survivor — someone who loves life despite the challenges and struggles that remain after cancer. Four years later, Eric spends much of his time supporting others who are living with this disease and tries to help survivors thrive. Eric has become an expert on the latest options, facilities, and protocols for treatment and understands first-hand the emotional toll oral cancer can have on the person, their caregivers, and loved ones. Eric’s words furthered our resolve to do more to carry out his mission and spread the message about the importance of early detection and prevention.

Alison had no prior event planning experience before taking on this endeavor. She learned so much and developed amazing new friendships along the way. Her journey is only just beginning, and NILOCA is already talking about how we can make the 2013 events even bigger and better. Much more can be done. There is room to double or even triple the remarkable numbers. Ways must be found to create awareness in our communities throughout the year. What if we had more dental hygienists, dental offices, oral surgeons, and ENT’s and other health care providers supporting our cause? We have the opportunity to prevent stories like Eric’s.

Alison’s efforts will save lives; she is someone you should know as well as her entire team. Are you talking about current trends and risk factors like the HPV virus and importance of the vaccine? Can you collaborate with other colleagues in your part of the country and create your own awareness and/or screening events? It can be a walk, a golf outing, a dinner gala, or even a block party. The Oral Cancer Foundation has wonderful people who can guide you through the process. We need you and hope you will join us as we continue to “Spread Awareness — Save Lives!” RDH

Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS, is a vision-driven practicing clinician that brings experience and news-you-can-use the next day. Patti is an American Dental Association Evidence Based Champion and Current Dental Terminology Licensee currently writing a series of min-books on insurance coding for hygienists. She is a certified presenter through the Academy of General Dentistry National Speaker’s Bureau for Periodontal Disease and a member of multiple key opinion leader boards. She is a member of the National Speaker’s Association and a Certified Speaking Professional candidate. Patti is a certified Health Information Technology trainer and a member of the American Health Information Management Association taking an active role in our shaping the changes in our electronic world.


Thomason P. Oral Precancer: Diagnosis and Management of Potentially Malignant Disorders. (2012) Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

Suggestions for volunteering to fight oral cancer (sourced from the OCF volunteer files)

Suggestion #1: Start where you are. You don’t need to know everything, and you certainly don’t need to be perfect. Many are novices regarding oral cancer despite being part of our individual struggles with it. You bring unique insights and contacts to the fray that would be less likely without your involvement. That compensates for shortcomings. We all remain capable of learning.

Suggestion #2: Take things step by step. You set the pace of your engagement. Don’t worry about being swallowed up, because you’ll determine how much you get involved. No single person can keep up with it all. We are on a learning curve and that requires patience. Burnout is always a possibility and that is nonproductive in all respects.

Suggestion #3: Build a supportive community. You can accomplish far more with even a small group of good people than you can alone. Volunteers are formed on that principle and it will become even more powerful as they gain experience, clarity —and more members.

Suggestion #4: Be strategic. Ask what you’re trying to accomplish, where you can find allies, and how to best communicate the urgencies you feel. Our vision and mission are dedicated to being both realistic and expansive in what we can do. Creativity and the “six degrees (or less) of separation” will be called into play often. Our intent to continue finding outreach opportunities (e.g., Relay for Life model) and building awareness on a much larger scale which offers each individual a way of sustaining meaningful involvement. We are not all the same in this regard and we don’t have to be. What we must do is continue to find ways of getting the most bang for our involvement buck.

Suggestion #5: Enlist the uninvolved. They have their own fears and doubts, so they won’t participate automatically; you have to work actively to engage them. If you do, there’s no telling what they’ll go on to achieve. This entails opportunistic searches through all of our contacts and associations. What we are now engaged in can make the world a better place for people who would otherwise suffer greatly; most are currently uninvolved because they are unaware.

Suggestion #6: Seek out unlikely allies. The more you widen the circle, the more you’ll have a chance of breaking through the entrenched barriers to change. This should be invigorating as well as productive. Some of this potential lies in communities of interest that may appear far removed from the world of oral cancer. That is not so because they are all populated with people who are at risk — or worse. No cluster of interests should be immune to your message if we can connect with them.

Suggestion #7: Persevere. Change most often takes time. The longer you continue working, the more you’ll accomplish. We seek to contribute to a reversal in the growth of oral cancer by a specific year but will not stress out if it takes longer — as long as we continue to make progress.

Suggestion #8: Savor the journey. Changing the world shouldn’t be grim work. Take time to enjoy nature, good music, good conversation, and whatever else lifts your soul. Savor the company of good people working with you for a change. We have a lot of other people in our lives to help this happen. Sustained effort without relief will destroy us, not oral cancer. Our particular world is rich in recharging opportunities. No one is in the way of our taking a break when we need it.

Suggestion #9: Think large. Don’t be afraid to tackle the deepest-rooted injustices, and to tackle them on a national or global scale. Remember that many small actions can shift the course of history. This one is pivotal. It means that we can connect with and engage people who wield great influence, bringing their formidable presence to the task. Simply put, there is no one with whom it is automatically beyond our ability to connect. This won’t define all of our activity, but it offers the greatest rewards in terms of return on the time invested.

Suggestion #10: Listen to your heart. It’s why you’re involved to begin with. It’s what will keep you going. This one is simple, but like many simple things, not easy. Remember why we are doing this: to honor the memory and the gift of others Our hearts are already involved; we just need to remind our bodies of it occasionally.

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

2012-11-02T14:48:17-07:00October, 2012|OCF In The News|

On the Job with Laura Schmitz Cook


In seven years as a Registered Dental Hygienist, Laura Schmitz Cook has already seen a lot of change — for example, she said, “Fluoride varnish has progressed. It was yellowish, now it’s clear. You can give it to young kids without fear. It’s a great treatment for kids with high decay risk.”

Digital X-rays are easier to manipulate than film, providing better information about what’s going on, and because they’re instantly viewable, “they’re a great educational tool.”

Of course, some things haven’t changed; Schmitz Cook spends most of her time cleaning teeth. “I take pride in being very gentle, but when people tell me they don’t like the dentist, I say, ‘I don’t take it personally.’ I understand the anxiety about going to the dentist.”

Through her first year in college, Schmitz Cook was torn between being a teacher and being a hygienist. After spending 20 hours shadowing a hygienist, the decision was easy. “I could see myself doing this,” she said. In addition to graduating with a four-year degree from an accredited program, Schmitz Cook had to take clinical and written board examinations.

Schmitz Cook moved to Minnesota as soon as she graduated from the University of South Dakota and “found a job right away through networking,” although she senses that jobs are tighter in the current economy. To be registered in Minnesota, she had to pass a state test on relevant laws and the code of ethics. She also earns 25 continuing education credits every two years to maintain her certification.

Many of the continuing education credits come through the Minnesota Dental Hygiene Association (MNDHA), where Schmitz Cook is an active volunteer. For the past two years, she has organized the Twin Cities Oral Cancer Walk, sponsored by MNDHA and the Minnesota Dental Assistants’ Association. The walk/fun run raises money for the Oral Cancer Foundation and raises awareness of the disease. The first year, nearly 200 people participated , raising $13,000 and providing free oral cancer screenings to anyone who attended the event.

Schmitz Cook hopes that even more people will participate in this year’s event, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Lake Nokomis. On-site registration begins at 8 a.m. Free oral cancer screenings will be provided between 8 and 9 a.m., and the walk/fun run around the lake begins at 9:30. To register or donate, go to or email Schmitz Cook at

What do you like best about your job?

I see the before and after. Good dental care is not just the health of the mouth — it’s the rest of the body, too.

What’s the hardest part of the job?

It’s wearing for the body. I work a four-day week, which is not uncommon. A typical work week is 36-38 hours. You have to be careful how you’re sitting, that you’re not twisting your neck, that you’re holding your arms properly. I’ve started using loupes [magnifying lenses] because they enable me to sit up straighter. I tell kids that they’re my microscopes so I can find the sugar bugs.

What should people know about oral cancer?

The human papilloma virus (HPV) now causes more oral cancer than tobacco or alcohol. Younger people can be affected. The earlier oral cancers are found, the more effectively they can be treated. Everyone should come to the Twin Cities Oral Cancer Walk and get a free screening.

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

Viral Marketing: What’s Stopping Men From Getting the HPV Vaccine

Source: GOOD Mobile

By: Jake Blumgart on July 6, 2012 at 3:00AM PDT

In early 2011, my doctor informed me that a vaccine to protect against the human papillomavirus—HPV—was now available for men. I was relieved, then frustrated—my doctor didn’t actually offer the principal vaccine, Gardasil, to her male patients. After a couple days of hunting around town, I finally found the vaccine at the Mazzoni Center, a LGBT health clinic in downtown Philly. I received all three shots, and joined the less than 1 percent of American men who are vaccinated against the most dangerous strains of the virus.

While I was exceedingly grateful to the Mazzoni Center inoculating me, I knew of only one other male friend who’d received his shots. So since I got my shots, I’ve made a point of discussing my experience with any friend, acquaintance, or bemused bystander who will listen. And I’ve learned two things about young, straight men and HPV: We all know it exists, and not much else.

When I posted about my vaccinations on Facebook and Twitter, the response was largely positive—but the dozen or so likes and comments mainly came from my female friends. When I brought up the issue with a few straight guys, they seemed confused about my decision to air the information in public. Embarrassed, I let the conversation drop. But a couple weeks later, I received a Facebook message from an acquaintance in another city, freaking out about his own HPV scare, and asking me whether he could be vaccinated, and where. My status update provided a rare safe zone around a toxic topic.

Like local zoning policy, a death in the family, or what actually lurks within Taco Bell tacos, few people feel comfortable talking publicly about STDs. There’s no better environment for breeding misinformation than the dense cocoon of embarrassment we’ve woven around sex. The result is that most men I’ve spoken with are familiar with just one statistic that pervades the conversation around HPV: An estimated 50 to 80 percent of American adults will contract it. The universality of the threat engenders a laissez-faire attitude: Fuck it. I probably already have HPV, as do all my peers. Why worry?

The stats above are as accurate as we have. But the real story of HPV is more complicated. There are more than 130 strains of HPV, and the vast majority of them do no harm: No cancer, no warts, nothing. Most immune systems take care of the few nastiest strains just as they would any other virus. Then again, some don’t.

“[Nearly] everyone is going to be HPV positive in their lifetime, but we are only worried about the people who have an immune system who cannot clear the infection,” says Brian Hill, president of the Oral Cancer Foundation and a survivor of HPV-related oral cancer, which was located at the base of his tongue in 1997, before the virus was recognized as a cause. “Of the 99 percent of people that engage in a sexual activity that transfers the virus, orally or genitally, only 1 percent will have it cascade into a cellular event. It’s the luck of the draw in having a gene pool that does not recognize HPV 16”—the dominant cancer-causing strain—“as a threat.”

There’s no way to tell if you, or your partner, lost the genetic lottery. HPV is transmittable through skin-to-skin contact, so condoms aren’t as effective as they are at, say, preventing HIV/AIDS. There aren’t even worthwhile tests to determine if you have a dangerous HPV infection or, unnervingly, a way to test for the penile cancer HPV can cause. Anal and oral cancer screenings exist, but dental insurance often does not cover the latter, as I found to my dismay when I booked one while researching this article. (I decided that the $65 out-of-pocket fee was worth protecting against tumors on my tonsils.)

The truth is that most young men don’t know about the risks of HPV—and their options for preventing it—because our culture’s sexual awkwardness distorts corporate, government, and even scientific decision-making. In the mid-2000s, before the vaccination was marketed to the public, the CDC conducted extensive focus group research to ascertain the American public knowledge of, and attitude toward, HPV. “Current focus-group findings revealed that STD-associated stigma served as a barrier to HPV-vaccine acceptability,” the researchers found. “[E]xperts…cautioned strongly against focusing primarily on the sexually transmitted nature of HPV…which can be stigmatizing and detract from the more important public health concern of cervical cancer.”

Merck took note. The results can be seen in the company’s initial “One Less” advertising campaign, which used images of jump-roping school girls to advocate the vaccination use for girls ages 9 to 26. Any mention of sexual transmission, genital warts, male victims, and non-cervical HPV-linked cancers are noticeably absent. I don’t remember seeing those ads, which were rolled out in late 2006, in the midst of my higher education. But my college girlfriend knew about HPV and Gardasil, and I’m sure her awareness was directly affected by Merck’s framing. I remember her frustration at learning of another negative consequence of sex—and that women, as usual, were expected to bear its financial and health costs. Neither of us knew that men could be anything more than passive carriers, or that the vaccine might eventually be available to both genders. “When we talk to guys, often young men especially will say, oh, but that’s the girl vaccine,” says Dr. Robert Winn, Medical Director of the Mazzoni Center. The culture of silence around men and HPV means that the burden is on women to protect themselves and their partners—and that the virus can be doubly dangerous for men. Of the HPV-associated cancers, cervical cancer (11,967 cases annually) is only slightly more prevalent than oral cancer (11,726). The death rates are three times higher for the latter, and men are far more likely to contract it. In a population of 100,00, 6.2 men and 1.4 women are diagnosed with HPV-related oral cancer. Of the 2,500 cases of HPV-related anal cancer reported annually, 900 are in men and 1,600 in women. According to the CDC, men who have sex with men are 17 times more likely to contract anal cancer. Prevalence rates are also higher among those with HIV/AIDS. Some of the statistics on male HPV rates are still emerging, but the idea that HPV affects men, too, has long been obvious. “When vaccines were being developed, HPV had the clearest causal link to cervical cancer,” says Adina Nack, Associate Professor of Sociology at California Lutheran University and author of Damaged Goods: Women Living With Incurable Sexually Transmitted Diseases. “[But] they knew boys contract it. Boys transmit it. There was already a growing body of clinical research that some cancers men suffer from are caused by the same strains of HPV.” Three years after the 2006 release for women, the vaccines were quietly approved for men. Neither Merck nor the U.S. government widely advertises its universal availability. I consider myself relatively plugged-in when it comes to sexual health, and I didn’t learn I could use the vaccine until 2011—two years of exposure while protection was there, unknown and unasked for. But in men, the HPV vaccine is still only approved as a defense against genital warts and anal cancer. Oral cancer is not officially one of the cancers Gardasil protects against, although the CDC notes that it’s “likely that this vaccine also protects men from other HPV-related cancers,” like cancers of the penis and the back of the throat. The Oral Cancer Foundation has been pushing for studies on the issue, but Merck announced in 2010 that it had no “plans to study the potential of Gardasil to prevent HPV-related [oral] cancers.” These false assumptions can be easily reversed. But men and women are still paying for Merck’s crappy reasoning. It would be great if the CDC conducted a sweeping public health campaign to alert Americans to the full facts about HPV and its vaccines. Merck should advertise its services to both men and women. But with the institutional players showing little inclination to try another big push for HPV vaccination, word of mouth  remains our principal sources of information about HPV protection. So start calling your local clinics—LGBT and otherwise—to see if they offer free shots. And when you get your vaccine, tell everyone who will listen.

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

Allentown woman who lost jaw to cancer shares anti-smoking message


People often stare at Christine Brader. Sometimes strangers ask the Allentown woman what happened to her.
She tells them, “I used to smoke.” Tobacco users flinch when they hear her response, Brader says.
Smoking led to oral cancer, which eventually cost the 49-year-old all of her teeth and part of her lower jaw.Brader has had three bouts with the disease since her first diagnosis five years ago, but is now cancer free.

“I have to go through life disfigured, all because I made a bad decision and smoked,” she says.

Brader doesn’t want others to follow in her footsteps, so she is working with Tobacco Free Northeast Pennsylvania to spread the word about the dangers of smoking. The organization serves a 10-county area, including Lehigh and Northampton, spokeswoman Alice Dalla Palu said.

Brader recently shared her story in a radio advertisement broadcast during the week of World No Tobacco Day, which was May 31.

In the ad — part of the Centers for Disease Control “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign — she describes preparing liquid meals and consuming them through a feeding tube.

Last year, Brader appeared in a TV commercial for Truth, a national smoking prevention campaign that targets youth.

BREAK THE HABIT: Call 1-800-784-8669 or visit to get help quitting smoking.

She started smoking at 16 to fit in with her peers and continued for 28 years. Brader quit cold turkey at 44 after learning in June 2007 that the growth inside her cheek was cancer.

“I felt a little run down, but I had no idea I was sick,” she said. “I had what I thought was a canker sore.”

Brader received radiation treatments and chemotherapy, but the cancer came back in April 2008, so she underwent surgery. The disease resurfaced a third time in June 2009 and had spread to her jaw.

Doctors performed a mandibulectomy and replaced her jaw with a titanium plate. Brader’s body rejected the plate and she nearly died.

The single-mother of two spent weeks in a medically induced coma and months in the hospital. Afterward, Brader looked and felt 20 years older, she said.“It took a year to recover,” she said.

Cancer forced Brader to leave her job and her Lehighton, Carbon County, home behind. She moved to Lehigh County to be closer to Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township, where she received treatment.

Brader, who describes herself as independent and strong-willed, was forced to rely on her teenage children as she battled for life.

It was a humbling, frustrating experience, she said. “It was a pretty big blow to realize that I might have to depend on somebody.”

When Brader learned the cancer had spread to her jaw, she considered skipping surgery doctors said was necessary to save her life. She credits her family and The Oral Cancer Foundation with encouraging her to keep up the fight.

Brader is disabled and unable to work, so she volunteers for Tobacco Free Northeast PA and similar organizations.

“I try to use my time to make a difference in the world,” she said. “Young people, maybe, by seeing me, they will realize that it’s not a cool thing to smoke. It’s not cool at all. It can kill you.”

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.


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