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Indiana 5K puts spotlight on cancer patients’ oral health

April 29, 2015

By Michelle Manchir

Dr. Schrader
– Low-income cancer patients in Indiana will benefit from a May 30 5K run hosted by the Indiana University School of Dentistry.

A nonprofit associated with the school, Oral Health Care for Cancer Patients Project Foundation, is launching its first ever “Root Run: Brush-Floss-Rinse 5K Run/Walk” at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

Event organizers say one of the primary goals of the race is to raise awareness of cancer patients’ oral health concerns.

More than a third of people treated for cancer develop complications in their mouth, including sores, bleeding, serious infections, periodontal disease, loss of saliva, decay of soft tissue and jaw bone and even increased caries, according to Stuart Schrader, Ph.D., IU School of Dentistry clinical assistant professor of behavior sciences and the director of the OHCCP Project Foundation.

Money raised at the event will help low-income Indiana cancer patients receive essential dental services before, during and after cancer treatment, Dr. Schrader said.

“Head and neck radiation, chemotherapy and blood and marrow transplantation can often lead to painful oral complications ranging from dry mouth to life-threatening infections,” said Dr. Schrader.  “These serious oral complications reduce a cancer patient’s quality of life, cause pain and distress, increase health care costs and even morbidity.”

Children are invited to the family-friendly event for a reduced cost. Runners and walkers will be covered with Silly String as they navigate the coarse to represent flossing, blasted by foaming machines to represent toothpaste and sprayed with mist to represent rinsing.

“The idea is to have people very engaged in this fun run,” said Dr. Schrader.

The Indiana Dental Association, GSK Oral Health Care, Delta Dental, Indiana Gentle Dentist and Indiana Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates are among the sponsors for OHCCP and the 5K run, according to Dr. Schrader.

But organizers’ essential goal for the run is to put a spotlight on the sometimes-overlooked issue of medically necessary oral care for disadvantaged cancer patients.

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, often they are inundated with treatment but “the oral health issue becomes kind of second consideration,” said Dr. Gerardo Maupome, a professor in the department of preventive and community dentistry at the Indiana school.

Timely and quality oral care before, during and after cancer treatment can prevent or reduce the incidence and severity of oral complications, enhancing both patient survival and quality of life, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Dr. Schrader said while the Root Run’s proceeds will benefit only to low income cancer patients in Indiana, he hopes the OHCCP can expand and inspire other organizations to assist cancer patients – especially those who are disenfranchised and underserved --  nationwide.

More information can be found at Pre-registration is $35 for adults and $10 for children aged 2-18. Cancer survivors, their spouses or partners and their caregivers can participate for free. Participants can register online or on the day of the event.

For more information about OHCCP, visit the website.