An Interview with Dr. Parul Makkar

Honoring a Life Interrupted: An Interview with Dr. Parul Makkar

About Oral Cancer


Oral cancer is aggressive. In the United States, 54,000 people are annually diagnosed with this disease. About half will not live beyond five years. 

Early symptoms include a sore throat that won’t heal, a lump, red spots, swelling and hoarseness. Since they do not seem severe, the symptoms are usually dismissed. Unfortunately, this disease has a high death rate mainly because it is often not discovered until advanced stages. However, the survival rate jumps to 80% to 90% when discovered early. 


For decades, the typical demographic was primarily men over 40 who regularly use alcohol and tobacco. But younger people have joined the demographic. Studies have shown a causal link between the human papillomavirus version 16 (HPV16) and oral cancer. 

Also, young people are using tobacco products and vaping. There is already evidence that vaping may contain carcinogens

An Advocate for Early Detection

The most significant factor in beating oral cancer is early detection. But there is little public awareness and no national screening program. Dr. Makkar is working to change that.

In a recent interview, she reminded people, especially the youth, that oral cancer is on the rise and that attention to symptoms is imperative.

Spreading the Message

“I’ve been doing a lot of podcasts, writing articles and raising money for the Oral Cancer Foundation. Some of the proceeds of the book sales go to the foundation,” Dr. Makkar said.

Dr. Makkar wants patients to understand how important it is to see their dentist right away if anything looks or feels out of the ordinary. 

 “Focus on good oral care, come to the dentist to be evaluated, do self screenings and pay attention to your body. Are you having a hard time swallowing? Does one side feel different than the other?” Dr. Makkar asked.

Obstacles to Early Detection

The pandemic has made it harder for many patients to access dental care and possible early detection. 

“Patients have shied away from coming to the dentist because they have to be without their masks. Also, insurance reimbursement rates have dropped,” Dr. Makkar said.

In addition, many dental practices are short-staffed. About 30% to 40% of dentists were having difficulty hiring dental assistants and hygienists in 2021. 

“I think after the pandemic, people started going back to school, or they changed their profession because they needed work,” she said.

“The only manner in which we can survive the multitudes of adversity that are bestowed upon us is to implement an equally illogical and irrational resolve to persevere.”

~ Dr. Manu Dua, Life Interrupted: Dr. Dua’s Survival Guide

Life Interrupted: A Beautiful Legacy

During the pandemic, Dr. Dua was immunocompromised and could not travel. So he used writing as an outlet and therapy. Dr. Makkar explains how the book came to be. 

“He wanted to publish, so I put his writings together. I wrote a small forward and a longer epilogue. The latter was vital because it showed the reader that he was more than the disease that took him. This was his desire, his work. I just compiled it and made it a reality,” Dr. Makkar said.

“One of the most important things that I have learned during these turbulent and difficult times is to accept the loss of control and continue to ride the wave day by day.”

~ Dr. Manu Dua, Life Interrupted: Dr. Dua’s Survival Guide

A Parting Reminder

Dr. Manu Dua reached beyond his pain and shared words of insight and comfort for those who may be dealing with physical or emotional pains of their own. To honor his courage, Dr. Parul Dua Makkar stepped past her grief, the depth of which we will never fully understand, and channeled it into spreading her brother’s message. 

“This is Manu’s story that has become my story. He started the journey, and I’m just helping him go on with it,” Dr. Makkar said.

“In creating something of value that will outlast us, we will in essence take a first step of immortality.”

~ Dr. Manu Dua, Life Interrupted: Dr. Dua’s Survival Guide

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