Higher media profile for HNC

On WHNCD the hosts of one of our biggest radio stations told one of our members that he had never heard of head and neck cancer.

Five to six weeks later HNC is frequently in the news. The NZ Listener of 10 September had a two page spread on our cancer, based on an interview with Auckland oral medicine specialist Hadleigh Clark. I can’t access it online but here is a scanned copy of the nicely informative article. Watch your mouth

I question three things: Clark is a specialist/consultant in oral health not a maxfax surgeon, there are more  more than 565 patients a year if you factor in all the different head and neck cancers, and one symptom left out for HPV-related head and neck cancers is the neck lump. This is the first sign for quite a few of our members. I’ve read many articles written by a journalist about HNC and there are often a few inaccuracies because it is a complex matter.

Why this high profile for HNC all of a sudden? It is surely  because of the unfortunate case of Aussie singer John Farnham who had huge surgery for jaw cancer last month. The Australian media overflowed with stories about HNC and the Australian/ New Zealand news site “The Conversation” (written by academics) published a really good story. https://theconversation.com/what-is-oral-cancer-the-condition-john-farnham-is-being-treated-for-189375

Some of the other coverage was slightly off topic and full of speculation. One was an interview with a tongue cancer survivor, who had  a different sort of HNC with different long term effects. It’a a very good interview though.  Also interviewed is an Austalian HNC surgeon who speaks compassionately about HNC patients and their struggles.  https://twitter.com/i/status/1563339600789381121

Topics discussed in our forum

Our private Facebook group is our forum and lately we have discussed some issues patients find hard. One is the removal of healthy back teeth prior to radiation. This is an emotional topic and is summed up nicely by a link on our site written by a dentist. https://hncsa.org.nz/3384-2/

The other is the availability and cost of food substitutes like Ensure and Fortisip. One of our board  members contacted Pharmac and found some of the basic facts – most people are transitioned to Ensure powder after coming off a feeding tube and the only cost is $5 for the first script. But there is a group of people  who need the liquid  Fortisip and are confused about availability and cost. This is distressing for people who are already suffering.


We are just about there post-Covid. We’ll have a face to face meeting in Grafton in October and in late September a Zoom meeting for members. We have some speakers lined up for bi-monthly Zoom meetings, a dental hygienist and cancer researcher. Details to follow. 

We wish John Farnham and all HNC patients well in their treatments and recovery.