Michigan residents visiting their dentist’s office in May are encouraged to become part of the national bone marrow registry by requesting a free oral swab kit and submitting a self-administrated swab before they leave.
The drive is part of the “Help Take a Bit Out of Cancer” campaign, cosponsored by the Michigan Dental Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Michigan, and former Detroit Red Wing Shawn Burr. The goal is to create Michigan’s single-largest bone marrow drive and raise funds to support blood cancer research.
“More than 5,100 patients in Michigan – and more than 1 million nationwide – are waiting for a bone marrow transplant,” said Burr, who has acute myeloid leukemia and is honorary chairman of the campaign. “People visiting their dentist during the month of May have a chance to take an active role in the fight against blood cancers by simply submitting an oral swab at their dentist’s office.”
Dr. Connie Verhagen, immediate past president of the Michigan Dental Association, helped Burr kick off the campaign at a news conference April 20 during the MDA’s Annual Meeting in Lansing.
“Oral health and overall health are intricately linked, so Michigan dentists are on the front lines of detection and prevention for a wide range of diseases,” said Verhagen, a Muskegon pediatric dentist. “The ‘Take a Bite Out of Cancer’ campaign highlights that relationship and dentists’ role in it. We are proud to be a part of this effort and encourage our patients to participate.”
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Michigan, in partnership with DKMS, American’s largest bone marrow donor center, is providing the swab kits free of charge. Participating dental offices will provide the kits, encourage patients to do their own swab and deposit them into a tube right at the dental office. Each week the tubes will be mailed to a lab where they will be tested and entered into the national bone marrow donor registry.
Dental offices will also display a poster and offer dental patients the opportunity to purchase a “Take a Bit Out of Cancer!” paper icon, with 100 percent of all proceeds going to fund blood cancer research.
“Michigan dentists and their patients have the chance to offer hope to thousands of Michigan residents, and we are very grateful for their partnership,” said Peggy Shriver, executive director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Michigan.
Chris Farrell, the state’s oral health director, echoed that sentiment, said “We really can ‘take a bite out of cancer’ and make a real difference through this very important public health activity. My father died of leukemia 31 years ago, so this is an important issue for me personally.”