Very soon, we have World Head and Neck Cancer Day. It’s on July 27 but that whole week will see a focus on our cancer. It means a lot to us because it is a chance to educate the world.
I asked some of our members who are carers, patients or health professionals, what the day meant to them.
WHNCD means raising awareness to me. Awareness of the disease and importantly recognition of signs and symptoms. Coupled with raising awareness of risk factors and prevention.
Awareness that some ethnic groups are more at risk for one type of HNC that is Nasopharyngeal Cancer with higher rates in Chinese, Maori and Pasifika people.
It is an unheard of cancer for most unless they have been affected by it. Women are taught how to check their breasts but what do we know about HN cancer?
WHNCD means to me a worldwide effort to communicate the early warning signs of head and neck to increase early detection to save lives.
Awareness about a group of cancers that is less common than some other cancers but more significant than most for those affected due to higher morbidity and mortality rates.
To me it means keeping a promise to myself when I was in hospital which was to make sure that I would do whatever I could to make sure that other people would not go through what I did. I have since learnt that early detection (which means knowing the warning signs), knowing what can cause it and the HPV vaccination are the way to do this.
Support for those who have Head and Neck Cancer and their families/carers
Prevention, education, HPV vaccination. All these need to be promoted in the media.
To me it means joining with HNC advocates from around the world to raise awareness of our needs and prevent others from going through the effects of the disease. It encourages the camaraderie that results from a shared sense of purpose.
Promotion of important preventive measures including HPV vaccination for boys and girls (HPV associated HNC affects males and females), lifestyle factors (increased rates in smokers and alcohol drinkers)
It is also to let people out there who are going through this to know that they are not alone.Opportunity to promote our support group www.facebook.com/groups/HNCSupport.Aotearoa and engage with like minded groups around the world like @SwallowsGroup @BeyondFiveOrg @HNCAlliance (Twitter handles).
WHNCD means that in the busyness of life we stop, pause and think about the people affected by head and neck cancer, their treatment, care and support.