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The City Journals

Dental students, families walk to help cure oral cancer

May 08, 2018 01:37PM ● By Keyra Kristoffersen

Keyra Kristoffersen | [email protected]

Roseman University of Health Sciences is partnering with the National Oral Cancer Foundation to hold a walk in South Jordan in order to raise funds and awareness for oral cancer research.

"The walk is basically to help raise awareness of oral cancer, so we always invite survivors of oral cancer and families of those that have passed away to come with us," said Brady Robbins, a third-year dental student in charge of the fundraiser this year. "It’s just a way to show our support for them and also get the word out to communities so they know that it is a thing."

Robbins has heard stories about head and throat cancers from his older brother, an oncologist, and the treatments that patients go through. It affected him deeply, so when his turn came around to choose a community project to volunteer to run, it was an easy choice to chair the OCF Walk.

"He’s expressed to me how important it is for dentists to be a part of the treatment because the earlier the cancer is detected the better chance they have of survival," said Robbins, "That weighed on me, and I thought about it a lot, how important it is for us to find cancer before it becomes life threatening."

Currently, Utah has the lowest death rate for oral cancer in the United States at 1.6 deaths per 100,000, tied with Connecticut, according to the World Life Expectancy website. The highest death rate in the U.S. is Mississippi at 3.8 deaths per 100,000 people. Historically, of the approximately 49,700 Americans who are diagnosed each year with this largely preventable type of cancer that affects the mouth and/or pharynx, it has been caused by tobacco and alcohol use. This might help explain why Utah has such lower rates of death per capita as substance use is not as prevalent as in other places around the country.

It has also affected mostly older generations as inflammation from use has had time to grow, however, in recent years as HPV infections have grown in the younger generation, so too have cases of oral cancer according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Because of this rise, along with the walk to raise funds, the National Oral Cancer Foundation and the students from the Roseman University will be providing free oral cancer screenings at the event. They will be checking for any lumps or bumps in the head and neck, then perform an intraoral exam and check visually for anything that looks abnormal on all sides of tongue, gums, roof of mouth.

"Oral cancer can happen to anybody, and the best way to know if you have it or not is to get checked, to go to your dentist and ask them to screen for free," said Robbins. "The earlier you find out about it, the better your chances of survival."

Robbins anticipates more than 150 participants and has a team from the school as well as from around the community volunteering to help with the event. He hopes to raise $10,000 for awareness, research and treatment. 

This is the fifth year the walk has happened. It will take place at East Riverfront Park, 10900 South Riverfront Parkway in South Jordan on May 5 with same-day registration starting at 8 a.m. The cost to participate in the walk is $30 to pre-register, $35 the day of the event and is free for oral cancer survivors and children under 5 years old. Everyone registered will receive a free event T-shirt, and there are prizes for those who raise more than $1,000.

To register for the event, donate or find out more information, visit