TxOHC Blog

Oral/oropharyngeal Cancer and HPV Vaccination Awareness: The Oral Cancer Walk

By Dr. Sohini Dhar- Clinical Assistant Professor- UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry and Director- TxOHC Board

Posted April 29, 2022

The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral/oropharyngeal cancer in the United States reports that there will be about 54,000 new cases of oral/oropharyngeal cancer and about 11,230 deaths from oral/oropharyngeal cancer in 2022. Oral/oropharyngeal cancer is the 8th most common cancer among US males and the 13th most common among US females. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer and one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STI). HPV causes nearly 90% of cervical and anal cancers and almost 70% of oropharyngeal cancers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV vaccine has been demonstrated to be safe, effective and offers long lasting protection against HPV-associated cancers. HPV vaccines have been routinely recommended for adolescent females since 2006 and for males since 2011. In 2018, FDA approved to expand the HPV vaccine use among women and men aged 27 through 45 years. The latest HPV vaccination coverage estimates from National Immunization Survey-Teen show that HPV vaccination rates are increasing as more adolescents are up to date on HPV vaccination. But there is still a long way before every individual eligible for HPV vaccine become up to date on their HPV vaccine status. Texas ranks 47th in terms of up-to-date HPV vaccination out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, though there is dramatic variation within the state.

To improve awareness on oral/ oropharyngeal cancer and HPV vaccination, every year UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry in partnership with the Oral Cancer Foundation hosts the San Antonio Oral Cancer Walk. This year’s Oral Cancer Walk took place on Saturday, April 23 and was spearheaded by Drs. Tiffany Tavares and David Ojeda Díaz, Clinical Assistant Professors at UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry. At this year’s event, student and faculty volunteers from the School of Dentistry and the School of Nursing provided free oral cancer screenings and administered HPV vaccinations for anyone attending the event.

Last Saturday (April 23,2022), the San Antonio Oral Cancer Walk had more than 210 active participants. This oral cancer awareness event had over 20 oral cancer survivors in attendance, some of whom shared their stories with the community and health professionals present at the event.

“As a student every year is aimed at trainings to become proficient in an important aspect of patient care. Organizing the 2022 San Antonio Oral Cancer Walk has helped me see the importance of conducting proper head and neck exams and asking the right questions to get a full picture of what is going on with our patients” said Lesley Robles, who is a second-year dental student at UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry and the event coordinator of the San Antonio Oral Cancer Walk-2022.

The American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) have published documents on how oral health care providers can play a role in increasing the HPV vaccination rates. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have published guidelines to help dentists and pediatricians start the conversation on HPV vaccination in a clinical setting. As oral health care workers, let us all work together to improve uptake of HPV vaccine and prevent oral/ oropharyngeal cancer.

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