The foundation, which is part of the Texas Academy of General Dentistry (TAGD), supports the oral health of those affected by cancer through education, access to oral care, and collaborative research.
“We're learning from them and they from us.”
— Joey Cazares, DDS
Dr. Cazares, who has a practice in McAllen and is president of the TAGD, came up with the idea of holding weekend events that combine continuing education classes for the dental and medical communities, followed by free oral cancer screenings for the public.
The first event was held in September and included a fundraiser, which raised more than $20,000 for the screenings, and was attended by members of the local medical and dental communities and community leaders.
During the most recent event, held in April as part of Oral Cancer Awareness month, Dr. Cazares was joined by local oral surgeon Carlos Cruz, DDS, at the Renaissance Hospital Cancer Center in Edinburg, TX.
Dr. Cazares explained his idea of gathering dentists with cancer specialists to collaborate on treating oral cancer patients.
Suspicious lesions found in patients during an oral cancer screening in September. Images courtesy of Texas Academy of General Dentistry.
"When we have patients diagnosed with oral cancer, we usually refer them to an oral surgeon who works with an oncologist. Here, we're all in same room discussing the same patients. It's a perfect fit," he said.
"It's nice to have all of us together, because the oncologist realizes the dental part of it is very important. We're learning from them and they from us; it's been a very good transference of information."
More than 36,000 new cases of oral cancers are diagnosed annually, and nearly 8,000 people die of these diseases, according to the American Cancer Society. The incidence in oral cancer patients younger than age 40 has increased nearly fivefold, with many patients having no known risk factors, according to the ADA.
Oral cancer patients may require hospitalization for treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. Only 20% of the U.S. population gets annual oral cancer screenings, according to the National Cancer Institute.