See these smiling faces here with law enforcement officers during WHNCD 2019? The three patients have had tongue cancer and laryngeal cancer. The process of getting to the “smiling in a photo stage” is no easy road and some patients lose their smiles to HNC.

HNC has some horrible treatments. This July series has three aims: 1. to raise awareness and understanding 2. to encourage people to do all they can to avoid HNC and 3. to make people aware of the warning signs. 

I want people to understand what people with big scars on their arms, necks and faces have been through and why they might speak a bit funny or have trouble eating. This first post will be about the effects of surgery.

One surgical technique lots of us go through is the neck dissection. HNC often spreads to nearby lymph nodes in the neck without the affected nodes showing up in scans or being palpable. Therefore, the protocols for many HNC treatment is to open up the neck and remove lines of nodes that surgeons know from experience are likely to be affected. This op can affect shoulder nerves and leaves the patient a bit stiff and numb. Some people have a bilateral neck dissection. 

After a neck dissection the removed nodes are sent to pathology. If there is any cancer in any of them radiotherapy is suggested for the patient six weeks after the surgery. Sometimes chemo as well.

 Having your throat cut is the least of head and neck cancer’s surgery trials. The scar fades into the folds of the neck. While I consider it the least, however, (and I’ve had two) some people have awful ongoing swelling or lymphoedema after the removal of lymph nodes and severe shoulder problems.

Many things can afflict us in this world but my mission is to create understanding of head and neck cancer patients.