Head & Neck Cancer Living Foundation Renews Support for Patients

The Head & Neck Cancer Living Foundation has renewed support for patients receiving care at UMKC School of Dentistry with $325k grant over 2 years.

In July 2018, the Head & Neck Cancer (HNC) Living Foundation renewed its support for the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Dentistry’s Dental Care for Head and Neck Cancer Patients program with a grant of $325k over 2 years (PI: Dr. Mary P. Walker). The HNC Living Foundation – based out of Overland Park, KS – is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance for head and neck cancer patients to improve their treatment, recovery, and quality of life. The foundation was formed in 2013 by Tom and Teresa Walsh after Teresa was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in her jawbone. After experiencing the physical, financial, and emotional challenges of head and neck cancer firsthand and witnessing the difficulties experienced by other patients, the Walshes were inspired to form the HNC Living Foundation. In addition to providing grant support to UMKC, the HNC Living Foundation has collaborated with other local institutions including Cancer Action, Truman Medical Centers, Turning Point, and the University of Kansas Health System to help head and neck cancer patients live life fully, during and after cancer treatment. Although starting locally, the foundation’s vision is to become a national resource of financial assistance for head and neck cancer patients. This is the second round of support granted to UMKC School of Dentistry by the HNC Living Foundation.

The collaboration between the HNC Living Foundation and UMKC School of Dentistry began in late 2016 when Chris Uithoven, Executive Director at HNC Living Foundation, and Dr. Mary P. Walker, Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Programs at UMKC School of Dentistry, began discussions about how to improve access to dental care for head and neck cancer patients in the Kansas City region. Dr. Walker’s background includes NIDCR-funded research focused on understanding the mechanism of radiotherapy-induced dentition breakdown, so she had an expert’s familiarity with oral and dental complications associated with head and neck cancer radiotherapy treatment. These complications are especially debilitating for patients’ quality of life, as traditional medical insurance typically does not cover pre-and post-cancer dental treatment. For this reason, HNC Living Foundation’s financial assistance to patients who would normally not be able to afford dental treatment is truly life changing.

In January 2017, the HNC Living Foundation granted the UMKC School of Dentistry $225,900 to provide dental care for uninsured and underinsured head and neck cancer (HNC) referred to the Advanced Education Clinic within the UMKC School of Dentistry from any regional medical center. The grant included coverage for dental care required prior to starting cancer therapy (pre-care) and follow-up ongoing dental care after cancer therapy (post-care). Expected outcomes of the partnership between UMKC and the HNC Living Foundation were the reduction in oral complications, decrease in cost of care, and pain prevention. Additional outcomes resulted in improvements in quality of life and the likelihood that the patient would successfully complete planned cancer treatment. The funds from the initial grant made it possible for 167 head and neck cancer patients to receive dental care at the UMKC School of Dentistry between January 2017 and June 2018.

The HNC Living Foundation has awarded the UMKC School of Dentistry an additional 2 year $325,000 grant that is projected to benefit approximately 200-225 patients. The continued partnership between UMKC and the HNC Living Foundation is making it possible to provide head and neck cancer patients – both new and returning – with essential dental care by well-trained clinicians.