Cancer Focus Northern Ireland recently welcomed some 100 head and neck cancer patients, carers, and professionals to their annual Head and Neck Cancer Support and Information Day at The Dunadry Hotel Co. Antrim.
Approximately 350 people are diagnosed with head and neck cancers annually in NI. Some 135 people will die from head and neck cancers here each year.
The conference represented an opportunity for head and neck cancer patients, and their carers, to learn how to “survive and thrive” by providing an opportunity to engage with various organisations supporting patients on their cancer journey. Highlights included sessions on how to manage fatigue, lymphoedema, and the psychological impact of head and neck cancers, as well as insight into available support services.
The annual conference is organised by Anthony Stuart, Community Wellbeing Manager at Cancer Focus Northern Irelan
d. Speaking about the reasons for the conference, Anthony said: “Across Northern Ireland, head and neck cancers are not the most visible, as they are not among the most common cancers. For those affected by these cancers, however, they can be among the most noticeable and disruptive given their placement. We organise this conference because it is an opportunity to give recognition to the particular challenges and support needs faced by head and neck cancer patients.”
Nicola Evans, an occupational therapist at the NI Cancer Centre in the Belfast Trust, spoke at the conference on fatigue management. “Think of your level of energy as an oil tank,” she advised. “Plan, prioritise, and pace your activities throughout the week to make the most of your energy tank, which is often diminished with cancer.”
Speaking about the conference, Nicola continued: “It is important that patients who have gone through a head and neck cancer diagnosis, and its treatment, have the opportunity to meet others going through a similar experience, and also to have the opportunity to gain useful information on managing the side effects often experienced post-treatment, in order to help regain their sense of identity, normality, and wellbeing.”
A key goal of the booked-out conference was to show head and neck cancer patients that they are not alone in their cancer journeys – there are others with similar experiences, and there are many support professionals and resources available to help. These services are available throughout Northern Ireland.
Individuals can reduce their cancer risks by refraining from tobacco use (especially smoking) and by having regular dental check-ups (to facilitate early detection).
For more information on mouth cancers, visit www.cancerfocusni.org/mouthcancer. For cancer concerns, call the free Cancer Focus NI Nurse Line on 0800 783 3339 (Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9am to 1pm), email email@example.com, or visit www.cancerfocusni.org/support to learn about available support services.