The Inception of the 10th Annual DMV Oral Cancer Walk

hey say you can have a million problems until you have a health problem. Then you just have one problem.

A passionate Ultimate Frisbee player and SCUBA diver, Peter Hoffman was a world traveler with an engineering degree and had his whole life in front of him, but in 2008, at the young age of 24, he was diagnosed with oral cancer.

Peter went through three rounds of treatment but died just seven short months after his diagnosis and only two years after graduating from college. A life full of promise cut painfully short.

In Peter’s final months, he dedicated himself to raising awareness about this disease through a walk that would raise awareness about all forms of oral cancer so that more people could be detected early and improve their chance of survival.

“Our son was a selfless and caring young man, even in his final days,” said Gary Hoffman, Peter’s father. “In the midst of fighting his own battle, he was still thinking bigger than himself and was eager to spread awareness for others. This walk has saved so many lives because of his selfless heart.”

After Peter’s passing in 2009, the Hoffman family went to work on planning the first “Walk for Peter.” The Hoffmans worked together, in Peter’s memory, knocking on the doors of dentist offices in the Washington D.C. area and cold-calling small businesses to participate, contribute or spread awareness of this life-changing event that would include free oral cancer screenings for anyone who showed up.

“The walk was like a big reunion, everyone who loved Peter dearly showed up every year to come together to not only support the cause, but also to share memories,” said Peggy Hoffman, Peter’s mom. “Early detection saves so many lives, and educating dentists and the younger generation is a critical part in making sure we’re continuing to do our part in honoring our son.”

One local dentist was touched instantly by this cause and the Hoffman family story. Dr. Jarred Abel, owner and chief surgeon at Bethesda Chevy Chase Oral Surgery, has sponsored the event at the highest level each year, and his office staff volunteers to help with the administration of the walk, as well as screenings and other support. “In my practice, oral cancer is the most life-threatening disease I could diagnose in a patient and something I’ve seen completely devastate people’s lives,” said Dr. Abel. “This cause stood out to me because dentists should screen for this on a regular basis for free, it’s a simple, non-invasive check-up that takes no more than two minutes to complete.”

“I wish more people understood that this is not something that only affects smokers or older people, it can and will affect anyone,” added Dr. Abel.

In 2018, Dr. Abel took over the walk from the Hoffmans and began collaborating with the Oral Cancer Foundation alongside Megan Blair, the director of practice development at Bethesda Chevy Chase Oral Surgery. Since then, the walk has raised almost half a million dollars and screened hundreds of local residents. All because of a young man’s dying wish that hasn’t been forgotten all these years later. For more information about oral cancer and its diagnosis and treatment, visit For the upcoming DMV Oral Cancer Walk, visit:

About the Oral Cancer Foundation: 

The Oral Cancer Foundation is a national public service, IRS-registered 501(c)3 head and neck cancer charity designed to reduce suffering and save lives through prevention, education, research funding, advocacy, and patient support activities. Oral and oropharyngeal cancers are the largest group of those cancers that fall into the head and neck cancer category. Common names for it include such things as mouth cancer, tongue cancer, tonsil cancer, and throat cancer. Approximately 58,500 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2024. This includes those cancers that occur in the mouth itself (salivary gland cancers, tongue cancers, mucosal soft tissue cancers), in the very back of the mouth known as the oropharynx (primarily tonsil and tonsillar crypt and base of tongue), and on the exterior lips of the mouth. For more than a decade, there has been an annual increase in the rate of oral and oropharyngeal cancers. This is expected to continue as there is no national screening policy or protocol, and the disease’s risk factors remain relatively unchanged. For more information, visit

SOURCE Oral Cancer Foundation

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