Global Health Nexus, Winter 2003

The Oral Cancer Foundation: One Man’s Crusade

“I considered myself very dentally aware,” says Brian Hill, a four-year, stage-four oral cancer survivor, “having been a member of the dental community my entire adult life, first as a prosthetic technician and later in a variety of positions within the management teams of some of the nation’s best-known dental products manufacturers. When I sold my implant manufacturing company at age 45, I believed my dental health to be optimal. I was wrong.”

Unknown to Brian, a painless, squamous cell carcinoma had developed on his tonsil. Despite visits with to several different dentists and hygienists over a two-year period, the lesion went undiagnosed and continued to grow. It was only when he developed a large lump on the side of his neck—a metastasis of the original tonsilar cancer—that an ENT specialist diagnosed his condition. “I was stunned that a lesion larger than the size of a nickel had been plainly visible in my mouth all this time and no one had noticed it.” “The chances of recurrence in the first five years following detection are very high for this disease, and in particular for those of us who had it detected in late stages,” he says. “This is particularly disturbing since the early stages of oral cancer, and even many of its precursor tissue changes, can be seen by the naked eye, by anyone who takes the time to do an oral cancer screening. With early detection, approximately 80 percent of oral cancers are completely curable.”

After months of surgery and radiation treatments, Brian began the long road to recovery and to beginning a new chapter in his life, as an oral cancer activist and advocate through the foundation he started, The Oral Cancer Foundation, a non-profit entity designed to educate and support individuals with the disease, as well as those dental and medical professionals most likely to find it in its early, curable stages.

Today Brian devotes 100 percent of his time to The Oral Cancer Foundation, striving to build a consensus among the dental and medical communities, the public, and corporations on the importance of routine oral cancer screenings.

“As a survivor who has made oral cancer awareness, prevention, and early detection his personal crusade, Brian is indispensable to efforts to make the disease a major national health issue,” says Dean Alfano. “I encourage every alumnus and friend who reads this article to support The Oral Cancer Foundation.”

For more information or to to become a member please visit or call 949.646.8000