September 16, 2014

Walk to spotlight oral cancer, provide free screenings

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill.  -- The prevalence of oral cancer is more common than many people realize. The Oral Cancer Foundation’s inaugural Southern Illinois awareness walk at SIU Carbondale on Oct. 5 will highlight the issue and provide free screenings. 

The SIU Carbondale Dental Hygiene Program is participating in the event sponsored by the Southern Illinois Dental Hygienists’ Society #12.  SIU dental hygiene students, registered dental hygienists and licensed dentists will provide free oral cancer screenings at the campus boat dock from 1 to 4 p.m. The boat dock is alongside the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, 1365 Douglas Drive, just west of the SIU Arena. 

Event check-in is from 1 to 2 p.m. The four-mile walk, which also starts at the boat dock, begins at 2:30 p.m. 

The registration fee is $25 and $10 for children ages 6-10. Children five years old and younger, oral cancer survivors and patients battling the disease are free. Visit and look under the “register now” tab for the Oct. 5 “Illinois” event, then look for Southern Illinois event details. Online registration ends at noon, Oct. 3. Registration will also be available the day of the event. 

“Anyone can be stricken by oral cancer.  We hope that having the event at SIU will encourage people to be screened.  We need to bring information about oral cancer to the forefront so it becomes a top priority for people with respect to health and prevention.  We want to encourage people from the SIU community and the surrounding area to participate,” Jennifer S. Sherry, SIU dental hygiene associate professor, said. 

Sherry said that officials estimate 43,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year, marking the eighth consecutive yearly increase, with many of those cases caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. Sherry stresses the importance of annual screenings. When oral cancer is found early, statistics show an 80 to 90 percent survival rate, but the percentage drops to 50 percent if found in the disease’s later stages. 

The SIU event will also feature a “50/50 Split the Pot” raffle. The walk coincides with a similar event in Bensenville. The person statewide who raises the most money for the foundation will win an iPad Air, while the top fundraising dental team will claim a VELscope Vx oral cancer detection system from DenMat Holdings. 

For more information, contact Sherry at 618/453-8891 or by email at or Sherri Lukes at