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Date: 23 October 2019

Time: 16:52

Image: Jo Wheeler, Shabnam Mohamed and partner Anjana, David Sudbry, Dr Camilla Dawson, Annelise Mortenson

Peer advocacy and support group launch makes sense

Story posted/last updated: 23 September 2019

A first of its kind peer support group has launched at University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) during the Make Sense Campaign; an international week of awareness activities, conferences and events to support patients with head and neck cancer.

The peer support and advocacy group, founded by Head and Neck Cancer UK or HANCUK, brings together former surgery patients with patients who have recently undergone surgery, their partners or their carers, alongside speech and language therapists, in a safe environment on the ward.

Research has found that discharge home after life-altering surgery can be an extremely challenging time, so HANCUK aims to reduce the patient’s sense of isolation by providing support and creating links beyond the ward.

Head and neck cancer can be life changing - altering or taking away the voice of many or leading to highly invasive surgeries on the face, neck or often, both.

Clinical Lead for Speech and Language Therapy, Dr Camilla Dawson, said: “Unlike other cancers there is worryingly low awareness of the signs and symptoms of head and neck cancer amongst the general public and healthcare professionals.

“There is even less awareness about the consequences such cancers can have, such as losing your voice, or altering the way people eat and drink.

“It can create an overwhelming sense of grief and isolation to lose your voice or have it forever altered due to cancer.

“By teaming up with HANCUK, we’re able to offer an extra level of support that our patients find invaluable as they embark on the often difficult post head and neck cancer surgery journey.

“The public can also benefit from learning the risk factors for head and neck cancer such as smoking, drinking alcohol and, increasingly, a link to certain subtypes of the human papilloma virus (HPV).“These are the most significant risk factors, however if caught early, head and neck cancer can be treated very effectively, so it is vital that people are educated on the signs and symptoms of the disease too.”

By spotting symptoms of head and neck cancer early and seeking medical advice it's possible to dramatically improve survival outcomes and save lives. It is important to visit a doctor if any of the following symptoms are experience for more than three weeks:

  •   Sore tongue, non-healing mouth ulcers and/or red or white patches in the mouth
  • Pain in the throat
  • Persistent hoarseness
  • Painful and/or difficulty swallowing 
  • Lump in the neck
  •  Blocked nose on one side/or bloody discharge from the nose

For more information about HANCUK, visit their website in the links below.

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