Friday 26 July 2019Media release4 minutes to read
Christchurch Hospital Cancer specialists, together with the Cancer Society Canterbury-West Coast Division, are raising awareness about early signs of head and neck cancers ahead of this year's World Head and Neck Cancer Day (tomorrow, 27 July).
The goal of World Head and Neck Cancer Day is to highlight head and neck cancers to the general public and support health professionals to increase their knowledge of early diagnosis and the treatment available.
Dr Robert Allison, Head and Neck Surgeon in Christchurch and past President of the New Zealand Society of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, says head and neck cancers often go undetected because many people don't recognise the early warning signs and symptoms.
“We're supporting World Head and Neck Cancer Day in the hope it helps raise awareness of the disease and the signs to look out for because treatment is more likely to be successful and less invasive if symptoms are recognised at an early stage,” Dr Allison says.
Head and neck cancer can be in the mouth, throat, neck, nose, sinuses and salivary glands with all being relatively common. Treatment is complex and can involve major surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
“In Christchurch we see between four and six new head and neck cancer patients per week (approximately 200 new patients per year) and some types are becoming more common, particularly cancer of the throat (oropharynx) and the thyroid gland.
“Throat cancer, particularly in men, is related to human papilloma virus (HPV) which can be successfully prevented with the Gardasil vaccine. This is available to all males between five and 26 years of age through their General Practice team, at no charge.
“Unfortunately many patients we treat have advanced cancer, which means treatment is more complex with a lower success rate. Even if the cancer is treated successfully, it can still have a major effect on a patient's quality of life,” Dr Allison says.
The common symptoms of head and neck cancer include a painless lump in the neck, persistent mouth ulceration, persistent hoarseness, and one-sided sore throat. Anyone with these symptoms for more than three weeks should see their GP.
Cantabrian Cosette, a throat cancer survivor, says she hopes this year’s World Head and Neck Cancer Day can help raise awareness of these types of cancers in New Zealand.
“Four years ago I was diagnosed with throat cancer. I was really scared at the time of diagnosis, with a very long journey of chemotherapy and radiation treatment ahead of me.
“Thankfully the cancer was picked up early enough that the treatment available to me was successful, and I now have a wonderful life. I count myself as extremely lucky to have had such an outcome.
“I’d encourage everyone to make themselves aware of the symptoms of these cancers and get in touch with their GP if they suspect something isn’t quite right,” says Cosette.
You can view Cosette telling her story as a throat cancer survivor here: https://vimeo.com/350233901
Page last updated: 7 August 2020
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