Facing rare cancer at 27
Thu, 12/03/2020 - 15:58
Meredith McMillen

When Meredith McMillen was diagnosed with stage 4a Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma in 2015 at age 27, she had no idea the journey it would send her on. 

Meredith’s cancer is rare, especially for her age and demographics. At a regular dentist’s checkup, her dentist noticed an irregularity with Meredith’s tongue, but she didn’t fit the demographic for oral cancer. Specialists thought it may have been a fungus or she was biting her tongue at night. It was nearly two years later before she received a cancer diagnosis.

Surgeons removed 50% of her tongue. She also went through radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The cause of her cancer is still unknown.

While being treated at Brown Cancer Center by Drs. Neal Dunlap, Rebecca Redman and Paul Tennant, Meredith documented and eventually published her story for other oral cancer fighters.

She is now cancer-free, a newlywed and continues to follow her passion of connecting and empowering cancer patients of this rare and underrepresented cancer.

“Rare cancers collectively account for nearly 25% of all cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths in the U.S. each year,” Dr. Redman, medical oncologist and deputy director of clinical research, said. 

“For years, we have treated cancers based solely on the body part in which they originated, which meant that a disproportionate amount of clinical research focused on the most common cancers. The Brown Cancer Center’s focus on the power of the immune system to control cancer has allowed patients with even the most rare cancer types to benefit from the knowledge gained and new treatments discovered through clinical trials.”

You can read more about Meredith’s oral cancer journey on the website she created to provide support to others facing oral cancer at myoralcancersupport.com