Category Archives: Uncategorized

Jabs for the Boys – why no catch-up?

As reported in a post last month, we are seeing more evidence of the increasing  contribution of HPV to incidence of head and neck cancer.

Last year in the UK it was announced that boys, as well as girls, would be vaccinated against HPV. So far the suggestion of a catch-up programme for boys who have missed out has been ignored.

Daily Mail Article

Many parents who wish to protect their sons may find the cost of a private vaccination prohibitive and the decision of the DHSC will cost lives.

Epidemiology of Larynx Cancer

I was a typical patient when diagnosed with larynx cancer, though at the younger end of the spectrum being just 51.  I had a 30 year pack a day smoking history, to which I attribute my demise.

A recent small-scale study has given an indication  of what may be seen in the future.  The incidence of head and neck cancer has increased for many years, despite changes in smoking habits. because of the contribution of the human papilloma virus (HPV).

The increase in cases has been accompanied by a change in the age profile, with patients presenting at a much younger age than before. The recent study into glottic cancer revealed many of the younger patients were non-smokers but tissue analysis revealed high-risk strains of HPV.

The research is reported here        LINK

Aspirin and Head and Neck Cancer

Painkillers Increase Survival Chances of Head and Neck Patients

Several UK papers have reported research has recently been published that demonstrated a significant survival benefit for head and neck cancer patients who take common painkillers such as aspirin or ibuprofen (NSAIDs). The Daily Express reported researchers from UC San Francisco have found 5 year survival is increased from 25% to 78% in some patients who take NSAIDs regularly for at least 6 months. Aspirin was the painkiller most commonly taken by patients in the study.

However this benefit is not seen in all head and neck patients but only those with a mutation of a particular gene (PIK3CA) saw the increase in survival prospects. Around one quarter of head and neck patients have this altered gene.

This news may not be as good as it first appears. There are many people who cannot take NSAIDs. The drugs can have some unfortunate side-effects. Aspirin can cause bleeding and others significantly increase risks of stroke and heart attack and raise blood pressure with prolonged use. The proportion of patients who are tested for the gene mutation is uncertain so it may be that very few patients would be aware if taking the painkillers would benefit them.

The research paper is available HERE

The Express article is  HERE

Warning Signs for Larynx Cancer

One of the reasons why survival statistics for larynx cancer are better than for many other head and neck tumour sites is down to presenting clear symptoms at an early stage. In my case it was hoarseness that led to a speedy hospital check and diagnosis.

Recent evidence indicates there are other things to look for:


The article reporting the research findings is published in the British Journal of General Practice and so will hopefully be widely seen by GPs.

It is important that literature produced to raise awareness of the public about early signs of cancer is updated to reflect this news as well.

The research paper is here BJGP

Proton Beam Therapy

At last proton beam therapy ( PBT) has made it into the treatment options available to UK cancer patients.

Christies Hospital Proton Beam Therapy

This is tremendous news.  The treatment of cancer results in collateral damage to the patient, apart from what we want it to do to the tumour cells. This new therapy minimises such damage.

The primary concern about cancer treatment will be for its curative success. A second concern, for head and neck patients , will be the permanent devastating effects that surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can have on basic functions such as speech, swallowing. and nutrition. PBT is far superior to radiotherapy in this respect.

However, it is expensive and for many years it will only be available at a small number of centres across the country.  How high will the needs of head and neck patients be on the priority list for deciding who receives this treatment?

A Review of 2018

We held 10 afternoon meetings and a Christmas Lunch.

There were 11 evening social meetings, including a summer meal.

We continue to meet requests from Chesterfield Royal Hospital to assist patients facing a laryngectomy.

Stall at Chesterfield Royal Hospital for fund-raising and raising awareness of early head and neck cancer signs.

Coffee Morning – European Head and Neck Awareness Week – to raise funds and awareness.

Trip to National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas

Trip to Victorian Christmas Market Weekend, Matlock

Our meetings have had visiting speakers from East Midlands Cancer Alliance and Severn Healthcare

We have provided a PPI contribution to the revision of the East Midlands Cancer Alliance head and neck cancer care pathway.

We have attended meetings and events of the Derbyshire Voluntary Action Cancer Group, including Be Cancer Safe meetings.

We participated in the international head and neck conference in Nottingham, in November.

We have collaborated with Heads2Gether support group,  at the Maggies Centre, Nottingham City Hospital.

Membership has continued to grow, as has the area from which we attract members.

We mourn the loss of Stuart Dawson. Our group helped him along his cancer journey but he , and his wife Mary,  gave far more back to others.

Head and Neck Cancer and Mental Health

In the wider community there has been much discussion about the availability of mental health services and the time it takes to secure treatment. For head and neck patients there is some recent evidence that this may be a crucial issue.

Cancer patients are surviving longer as treatments advance; however the suicide rates are significantly higher than might be expected.

In the latest issue of Cancer, an American journal, Nosayaba Osazuwa-Peters of the Saint Louis University Cancer Centre reported on the findings of his research study. This looked at the data from over 4 million cancer patients, of which more than 150,000 had head and neck cancer.

Suicide rates amongst head and neck patients were higher than for other cancer patient groups and even more significantly higher than for the general population.

Head and neck patients face not only the challenge of dealing with a potentially life-limiting illness but also the consequences of the treatment itself. This may include big problems with speech and swallowing which can limit social interaction and the ability to continue in work.

NALC is aware of concern around this issue and will be looking to work with other head and neck patient groups to try to improve the support that is available.

For more information visit the news section (25 October) of



International Head and Neck Conference 2018


I attended the first conference organised by Chris Curtis and The Swallows in Liverpool in 2016. The event has grown considerably now with one day for clinicians and another for patients. This year in Nottingham, there were speakers from the USA and India, and from Australia via a video link. We heard contributions from clinicians describing examples of good practice and patients sharing their experiences.

Taking one example, Richard Simcock, a consultant oncologist from Brighton, spoke about communication between doctor and patient. His presentation was informative and entertaining and was received very well. I think it worth sharing one suggestion he made about four key questions a patient could ask when discussing proposed treatment with their consultant:

What are the benefits?
What are the risks?
What are the alternatives?
What if I decline treatment?

NALC had a display stand for the two days and several members of the Chesterfield Club were also in attendance. Everyone enjoyed the speakers and exhibits, as well as the chance to share experiences with other patients and carers. One new member said “a few months ago they could not have imagined attending such an event but were very glad they had”. Joining a support group and meeting others empowered them for dealing with the rest of their cancer journey.

Next year’s conference will be held in Brighton and I recommend it to any head and neck cancer patient or carer.

Head and Neck Research News


For head and neck patients chemotherapy can be a difficult experience. The toxicity and permanent effects of such treatment make finding new or alternative drugs a high priority.  Current standard care  employs cisplatin chemotherapy but recent clinical trials have compared it with a more novel agent, cetuximab.  Sadly the results reported so far indicate cisplatin should remain the standard care.  It was reported at the European Society of Medical Oncology Congress this month that cetuximab gave inferior outcomes.

ESMO Press Release

The Chief Investigator, Professor Hisham Mehanna, can be seen here presenting his findings


The findings have been published in The Lancet and are reported



Immunotherapies have yielded some encouraging results so far in the treatment of cancer. For head and neck patients they have been used when the cancer is very advanced and treatment options are limited. The benefits seen  have led clinicians to now recommend their use at an earlier stage.