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 news-medical.net



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.