With our mouth we eat and drink what sustains us. With it, we communicate ideas and feelings to the world through speech or a simple smile. It allows us to taste the nuance of a fine wine, the sweetness of a freshly picked berry, or mustard covered hot dog at the ballpark. Love or passion is expressed by it when we kiss a loved one or child. When cancer affects our mouths, it does more than take away these everyday functions, it too often takes our lives. Through increased public and professional awareness, prevention through lifestyle changes, early detection initiatives, education, improved treatment modalities, and sponsorship of research, the Oral Cancer Foundation’s mission is to contribute to the reduction of suffering, permanent physical damage and disfigurement, and death caused by this disease.
The foundation is an IRS registered non-profit 501(c) 3, public service charity designed for advocacy and service, created to promote change, through proactive means, in both the public and medical/dental professional sectors. At the forefront of our agenda is the firm establishment in the minds of the American public for the need to undergo an annual oral cancer screening, combined with an outreach to the dental and medical communities to provide this service as a matter of routine practice. Oral cancer takes more lives than cancers we routinely hear about, such as cervical, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, skin (malignant melanoma), testicular, and many others. In the efforts to reduce the death rate from cancers in the US, the most significant progress has been made through early detection. Cervical, skin, prostate, and others that lend themselves to simple, opportunistic screenings and exams have all had their death rates reduced through programs promoting early discovery. Early discovery and diagnosis, yields better long-term outcomes, and lower morbidity to those who undergo treatments. Oral cancer is not hidden within the body in some hard to find location requiring an invasive examination, the majority of the time it is literally in plain view, right under your nose, and can be seen with the naked eye or felt with the fingers. In most cases, its early, highly survivable stages are easily detected in a 3 to 5 minute painless visual and tactile examination. Even the precancerous lesions, which can progress into malignancy, can be seen with the naked eye. An annual oral examination conducted by members of the dental and medical communities will have a definite impact on reducing the death rate associated with oral cancer. It is our mission to bring this about.
Founded by an oral cancer survivor, Brian R. Hill, the foundation’s goals are supported by a Scientific Advisory Board composed of leading cancer authorities from varied medical and dental specialties, drawn from premier cancer treatment, research, and educational institutions in the US. The foundation has a separate Board of Advisors composed of individuals with experience in philanthropic and cause related issues, many of whom are heads of large non-profits themselves. OCF continues to add to these boards, and its board of directors.
In 2008 The Bruce Paltrow Fund was added to OCF as a collaborative effort between the Paltrow family represented by Ms. Blythe Danner (Paltrow), Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Paltrow and the Oral Cancer Foundation. The Paltrow fund has specific goals to aid in fund raising and public outreach efforts. The goals reflect the humanitarian nature of Director Producer Bruce Paltrow who was lost to oral cancer in 2002. The foundation is primarily supported by and dependent on donations that are received from private individuals who mostly come from the ranks of survivors, as well as family and friends of those who have had the disease or been lost to it. As a disease that has not received the national publicity and awareness of some of the major cancers such as breast, prostate, etc., OCF’s national fund raising pales in financial comparison. Because the foundation serves a relatively low incidence rate disease, (about 48k individuals in the US in 2016) with a very high death rate at 5 years as a percentage of those who get this cancer, the foundation can never reach the kind of support that many other cancers organizations receive. This creates a limited resource of those who can be asked to become donors or volunteers to OCF, and is a reality of the business model that OCF has to live within. A small group of private sector corporate sponsors have also made unrestricted donations to the foundation in support of its efforts. Early funding for some projects was underwritten and paid for privately by Brian and Ingrid Hill, the founders. Brian Hill has also donated his full time engagement as the foundation’s executive director, between 1999 and 2014 without compensation, to further the work of the foundation. While the foundation has the IRS tax status to receive monies from federal and state governments and institutions, no grant money has been obtained from these sources to date. The foundation hopes to continue to develop relationships with benevolent corporate sponsors or other foundations who share common goals with OCF, which will provide the funding necessary to enact the initiatives that the foundation has pending at this time. Despite these limitations in financial and human resources, OCF continues to receive awards and accolades each year for its activities. It is a five star (out of a possible five star) rated non profit at Guidestar and Great Non Profits two industry oversite organizations.