This is something that I have done without realising it – or maybe not naming it educating, just calling it chatting to people !
This is something I am hugely passionate about ! I mean its massive ….. there is a lot of information about breast cancer – ovarian cancer – even prostate – and rightly so. But I think we need to open the book and educate further!
Head and neck cancers are in their own little bracket. We have unique side effects and long term medical issues – many of which you wouldn’t have any idea we deal with. (I will expand on this later on)
- There are around 11,900 new head and neck cancer cases in the UK every year, that’s 33 every day (2014-2016).
- Head and neck cancer is the 8th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 3% of all new cancer cases (2016).
- In females in the UK, head and neck cancer is the 13th most common cancer, with around 3,700 new cases in 2016.
- In males in the UK, head and neck cancer is the 4th most common cancer, with around 8,400 new cases in 2016.
- Incidence rates for head and neck cancer in the UK are highest in people aged 70 to 74 (2014-2016).
The above information is from Cancer reserch UK and I have picked these bits for a few reason one is there are 33 new cases diagnosed EVERYDAY!!!
33.39% DO NOT MAKE IT
That’s huge – I mean that’s a third of all diagnosed that don’t make it !!
Breast cancer for example had a 20.64% morbidity..
Lets face it they’re both equally shit but also poles apart .
Head and neck cancers are unique in a number of ways they effect thisng that are crutial to our life, emotional health and socially !
NOT EVERYONE WILL HAVE ALL OF THESE ISSUE – SOME HAVE NEAR NONE AND SOME HAVE MANY – THIS IS NOT SCAREMONGERING.
THESE ARE SOME OF THE UNIQUE ISSUES HEAD AND NECK CANCER PATIENTS MAY FACE – EITHER INITIALLY – CONTINUALLY OR YEARS AFTER THE FACT
- The ability to smile !!! how simple is that – many of us loose that or it changes – from the smile you’ve seen in the mirror for 30, 40, 50 or 60 years….its not the same face looking back at you. Family members seem to adjust much quicker to this.
- Facial scars, this one I have been very lucky with (Thank you Mr Moss and Flat cap Doc) but many have the chin and lip split.
- being able to kiss and I mean making the squeaky kissy sound when you kiss the kids on the forehead and snogging your hubby (or wife ), this is one I’ve never spoken about – and yes you can kiss or snog but its not the same …not nearly .
- Ability to talk – or changes in the ability – I had a very English newsreader accident and used to be called posh because I like to pronounce and articulate ..I’ve not got a hope in hell now! And some loose their ability to talk permanently – laryngectomy patients rely on medical devices to communicate!!! Vocal changes … you will find various videos of me speaking in my NEW voice ! Emotionally this one is HARD. It may not seem that way but I HATE HATE HATE my voice .
- Speech impediments – I would say this is most of us! I have a pronounced lisp and struggle with many words especially when tired! Not being able to make yourself understood can be very frustrating – and those bloody automated telephone things “say the department you would like to speak to..” they think I speak Swahili !!!!
- EATING – this is something we take for granted – a snack, a quick bite with friends a party – birthday cake, a date night with hubby, family dinner. oh and food to survive. Malnutrition is VERY common – I’ve had it twice and I’m clinically FAT – work that one out!
- Social eating – – this is massive…Christmas, Easter, Birthdays….fridays …..all involve food….non involve a PEG TUBE or soft mushy food only .
- Dysphasia – swallowing issues – one thing I do to show people how hard it is for me to swallow is to ask them to stick their tongue out bite onto it gently – then try and swallow !!! Give it a go – see how hard it is.
- Trismus – jaw opening – I have severely affected jaw opening – I have to use a baby tooth brush to reach my back teeth!
- Mouth pain post treatment this is a huge one.
- Oral sensitivity, as for me toothpaste is like wasabi!! It’s like a hundred extra strong mints and some!! Pepper – even a few grains in some food will send me into a spin as it BURNS – where as hubby cannot even tell it has any in it! Or the acid in fruits – oh my goodness! they are evil to my mouth – it’s like having a open sore!!
- Dental issues – post radiotherapy – good old radiotherapy – weakens teeth so much – many of us experience crumbling teeth for years and years .
- Radiation fibrosis
- Shoulder issues caused by surgery and or radiotherapy.
- Graft site problems such as CRPS – chronic regional pain syndrome
Many of these are social – and as humans we are social so we read faces for cues and we listen to tone of voice.
How much of communication is facial expression? The combine statistical results two studies came up with the now famous rule that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal. The non-verbal component was made up of body language (55 percent) and tone of voice (38 percent).
I asked on a Facebook group of Head and Neck Cancer patients if I had missed anything …. these are the results …..
I will say again these are the possibilities not probabilities.