Last year marked Seattle’s first oral cancer awareness walk. The Swedish Head and Neck Surgery Clinic was proud to get behind the cause and walk alongside of our patients. The 2012 walk was a great success with about 300 participants and close to $60,000 generated in funds. Next month we hope to surpass that goal by raising $75,000 on September 14, 2013, with the second annual 5K walk for oral cancer awareness. The walk is a fundraising event for the whole family, set to take place at Magnuson Park.
Oral cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that, unfortunately, is on the rise. This is the most common site of cancer in the head and neck. We used to see oral and oropharyngeal cancers primarily in older patients with a strong history of tobacco and alcohol use. However, recently we are seeing a very different population of people contract this disease. Young, healthy nonsmokers are now being diagnosed with cancers of the tongue, tonsil, and oropharynx. Some of these cases are thought to be related to the human papilloma virus (HPV), but others are simply unknown. Regardless of the exact cause, the vast majority of the public is unaware of the fact that this type of cancer even exists.
Even fewer realize that the overall 5-year survival rate for head and neck cancers is less than 40%. These numbers are poor because these cancers are often diagnosed later in the course of the disease, such as stage III or IV. Advocacy groups such as the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance (HNCA) and the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) seek to educate health care workers, the cancer community, and the general public about the importance of early detection and diagnosis of head and neck cancer.
The team at Swedish Head and Neck Surgery knows first-hand how life-impacting head and neck cancer can be. We are grateful for the OCF’s awareness initiative and look forward to supporting the event. The walk will take place at Seattle’s Magnuson Park at 9 am on September 14, 2013. Participate by registering to walk or donate online.