The Heads Up Support Group meets in the Calman Centre every Thursday between 10am and 12noon and is open to anyone who has been affected by head or neck cancer. This includes cancers of the throat, mouth, and around 30 other types.

 

 

HEADS UP
Head and Neck Cancer Support Group

What is a Support Group?
A Support Group is made up of patients and carers who offer patients the opportunity to meet
and talk at their own pace, one to one.

Are Support Groups approved as part of NHS treatment?
Yes. Referral to Support Groups of patients and carers from diagnosis is recommended. (Scottish
Intercollegiate Guidelines 90 Diagnosis and Management of Head and Neck Cancers)

“Your medical and nursing team will explain the procedures to be used, possible side effects and
do their best to support and guide you through this. Heads Up members can tell you personally
what it feels like and how they coped. They can help you to get through the difficult periods and
give you information from a patient’s perspective.”
Clinical Nurse Specialists NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Should I contact Heads Up only when I need their help?
It is your choice, you contact us when you are ready. If you wish, we are able take your details and
you can get back in touch if and when you need us.

There are several ways to contact us:
At the Royal Infirmary in the front hall on Tuesdays 10am to 12.30pm
At Cancer Support Scotland, Calman Centre, 75 Shelley Road,
Gartnavel Complex, Glasgow G12 0ZE (see map below).
We have members on duty on Thursdays from 10am to 12.30pm. The Calman Centre has relaxed
surroundings and private areas for one to one conversations.

Symptoms of Head and Neck Cancer

Common symptoms include:
• an ulcer in the mouth that doesn’t heal within a few weeks
• red or white patches in the mouth that don’t go away within a
few weeks
• difficulty swallowing or pain when chewing or swallowing
• changes to your voice (for example, hoarseness)
• a constant sore throat and earache on one side
• a swelling or lump in the face, mouth or neck.

Less common symptoms include:
• a loose tooth
• a blocked nose or nosebleeds
• pain or numbness in the face or upper jaw.

Although these symptoms can be caused by conditions other
than cancer, it’s important to have them checked out by your GP
or dentist, especially if they continue.

 

Articles:

'Tumours of the nose, sinuses and skull base region' by Professor McGarry.

'Cancer and the Mouth' by dental specialist Alan Donaldson.

Further Information

Check out the Heads Up Support Group Awareness Walk : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC2TFMlgnJA

Below you can read about how throat cancer affected Alex, the current Heads Up Chairperson.

Alex's Story

By Alex McCaffrey

Is cancer being checked? That's a question entering my head at the moment and I don't know what to make of it.

I have cancer of the throat, been through a laraengectomy operation and had my larynx, voice box, part of my tongue and lymph glands removed and had to learn a whole new way of life.

I learned how to breathe again and with the use of a plastic valve in my 'STOMA' – a hole in my neck. I can speak again after going some eight to nine months of very frustrating silence, which is for another time.

I now breathe through the STOMA. I don't breathe using my mouth or nose - both are now redundant for that purpose.

The airways to my throat and nose were cut away and a new throat, taken from tissue and skin from other parts of my body, formed and sewn in to replace the old. I can now eat food after a fashion, and, after a lot of chewing, can swallow food that I can't really taste or smell and obtain energy and calories.

But that's not what's bothering me. What is an issue is the number of people under the impression that cancer has been checked and a cure is not that far away. I don't see that.

I am involved in a Head and Neck Cancer Support Group, the only one of its kind in the Greater Glasgow area, and the number of people being affected by this type of cancer are not being checked. A lot more people are requiring support and help and I think the numbers are on the increase.

I also do face-to-face counselling, helping people affected by a similar or the same type of cancer as me, come to terms with their life now for a large, national well known charity.

The type of people affected by this disease is as varied as is the age group. This disease attacks all groups and ages - it's vicious and unrelenting and not being checked.

The best defence is early detection and early diagnosis. This type of cancer can be treated and patients can still live a long life, albeit a changed life, but it's not been checked in any way.

I think people have to be made aware of the dangers of not going to the doctor sooner with a persistent cough or sore throat, a lump at side of the throat and problems with eating and swallowing.

There are lots of symptoms so all I can say is that if it's bothering you, go and bother the doctor and get it checked out. Be diligent in looking after your general health and, of course, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol.

As I have said, cancer is not being checked so be good to yourself and get yourself checked, so you don't have to go through what I went through.