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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS


Home > News > Head and neck cancer awareness at north cumbria's hospitals

Head and neck cancer awareness at north cumbria's hospitals

Posted on Friday 27th September 2013
head and neck cancer awareness team

The head and neck cancer team

As cases of head and neck cancer are on the increase, it is important to educate people about the early symptoms of the disease. This week is the first European Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week and the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle are taking part by providing information booklets in the main atrium of the hospital. North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust would also like to use the week to ensure that people are aware of the symptoms to spot.

Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common type of cancer in Europe.  It is about half as common as lung cancer, but twice as common as cervical cancer. There were more than 150,000 new patients diagnosed in Europe in 2012.

Despite its severity and increasing prevalence within society, there is little awareness of head and neck cancer. It is very important to diagnose the disease in its early stages. If you have one of the following symptoms for more than three weeks then you should seek medical advice:

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

There is a multi-disciplinary team at the Cumberland Infirmary who also hold clinics at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, as well as in the community and seeing people at home. The team is made up of consultants, nurse specialists, dieticians, a psychologist, speech & language therapist, palliative care, oncologist and oncologist technicians.

Helen Murdock, Clinical Nurse Specialist, said: “Head and neck cancer patients require a lot of support as the disease can sometimes lead to facial disfigurement and problems with speech and swallowing. We offer patients a lot of emotional support as well as providing them with their medical care.

“The team runs a ‘Heads up’ support group on the first Wednesday of every month covering Carlisle, Penrith, Workington and Whitehaven. The group provides an opportunity to our patients to come along and chat about any concerns or questions they may have as well as meeting other people who are going through the same experience. We also invite guest speakers and set up classes which our patients feel they may benefit from, such as IT classes to help them to find alternative ways to communicate. We also send out a monthly newsletter to every patient, past or present, to update them on what we are doing and useful phone numbers.

“The Make Sense Campaign is a good way of highlighting the symptoms of the disease and offering more information to people in north Cumbria.”