World Head & Neck Cancer Day 2019
Friday, 26 July 2019
July 27th is World Head & Neck Cancer Day and did you know, there are over 300 people are newly diagnosed with head or neck cancer in Northern Ireland each year?
To support many of these patients, Friends of the Cancer Centre proudly funds Northern Ireland's only head and neck cancer clinical nurse specialist, Claire Duffy. Over the last year, Claire has had over 1000 interactions with patients, providing holistic care at all stages from their diagnosis and through treatment. We caught up with Claire to find out more about how she supports her patients:
“A cancer diagnosis can be a very daunting experience, and I help to break down exactly what treatment means for patients, provide practical support, and act as a key point of contact for patients, even after their treatment has been completed. I review patients at a variety of different clinics and provide tailored specialist advice to help to address any psychosocial needs. This can include advising on issues relating to symptom control and signposting patients to other services including emotional wellbeing support, smoking cessation, alcohol dependence, substance/drug misuse, financial support, and advice on talking to children about a cancer diagnosis.
“Friends of the Cancer Centre plays a significant role in supporting head and neck cancer patients, not only through their funding of my post, but also more widely, by helping to make what is a difficult time for patients that little bit easier. The charity have also provided funding for some vital equipment, including an endoscopy, which we can use to examine a patients’ throat or voice box.
“Most recently, the charity supported our health and wellbeing event, which allowed head & neck cancer patients to hear from expert professionals on treatment options, dealing with side effects, and support available. The event covered everything from fatigue management to dietary advice, anxiety & resilience to dental care, and was attended by around 35 of our patients and their families. We had some fantastic feedback on how useful the day was for patients, and hope to run similar events in the future:
- ‘I felt as a relative it was very informative and I learnt a lot. I learnt not only about services for my mum, but also for myself as a relative.’
- ‘I felt this event was very informative and beneficial.’
- ‘After my treatment, I’ve lost a lot of information given to me to assist my recovery and this is the first opportunity to remind me of that!’
“I want to say a big thank you to everyone who fundraises for the charity, as without you, not only would the charity be unable to fund my post, but the key support provided for our patients would not be possible.”
There are more than 30 areas in the head and neck where cancer can develop, including the mouth and lips, throat, nose and sinuses. Head & neck cancer can be caused by:
- The HPV (human papilloma virus) infection - now emerging as one of the leading causes.
- Smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, especially when you do both.
- Poor mouth hygiene.
Some of the most common signs & symptoms include prolonged pain in the mouth, throat, cheek or other areas of the face or head. Other symptoms may include:
- a lump in the neck,
- a sore throat,
- mouth ulcers that do not heal,
- difficulty in swallowing.
If you have any of these symptoms that have not gone away within three weeks, you should speak to your GP.