NYU Dentistry Hosts Annual Oral Cancer Awareness Walk

All proceeds went to the NYU Oral Health Center, which helped offer free screenings on Sunday as part of the event.

Students, faculty and oral cancer survivors gathered for the College’s annual NYU Oral Cancer Walk on October 6. (Photo by Ronni Husmann)

Over 500 people participated in NYU College of Dentistry’s annual Oral Cancer Walk to raise money and awareness for research into oral cancer.

As part of Cancer Awareness Month, the walk had a goal of raising $30,000 for the NYU Oral Cancer Center. The walk began at the NYU College of Dentistry Building in the Gramercy Park area, participants then made a loop around the East Village and ended at a reception across from the dentistry building with donuts, pumpkin decorating and free cancer screenings.

Mainly caused by tobacco and alcohol, around 100,000 people in the U.S. live with oral cancer — about half of the number with invasive breast cancer or lung cancer. Many of those who participated in the walk said they felt it is lesser-talked about.

“This is part of what we do to increase awareness,” College of Dentistry third-year Aniya Loia said. “It’s also for us to remember that for every time we see a patient, we have to be careful to look at all the details. We might be one of those practitioners who can stop cancer in the very beginning by being active about it and knowing what to look for.”

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NYU Dentistry ‘11 alumnus Jean Paul Laurent participated in the walk because he feels invested in addressing oral cancer.

“As a former student, this is the first activity I did in the school, and since then I always participated in it,” Laurent said. “More importantly, during my trip to India I saw real cases of the impact of oral cancer [and so] I really wanted to stay involved with the issue.”

Diagnosing oral cancer at an early stage significantly increases five-year survival rates, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The Oral Cancer Foundation notes that when oral cancer is found in the early stages, chances of survival range from 80 to 90%. However, if diagnosed at later stages — which a majority of cases are — then the death rate is about 43% at five years from diagnosis.

“We’ve had patients that have come in for [free screening, and] red flags have come up, so it really helps people [discover] if they have an illness,” Program Coordinator at NYU Dentistry Emily Wolschlag said.

The Oral Cancer Center hopes to use proceeds from the walk to add a wellness center to combat pre-surgery anxiety in patients. As the walk ended, money was still coming in. Last year, the walk managed to raise the full $30,000.

“Each year, there are certain projects that the Oral Cancer Center would like to pursue to make the experience that patients have better,” Director of Student Affairs at NYU Dentistry Maya Ardon said.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, October 7, 2019 print edition. Email Ronni Husmann and Ishaan Parmar at [email protected]

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