Information and a sense of community helps empower patients, loved ones and caregivers throughout their cancer journey.
Hearing the word cancer as a diagnosis can be alarming. It triggers fear, uncertainty and anxiety about what the future may hold. The Cancer Support Community is dedicated to helping people impacted by cancer. It provides knowledge and supportive community.
There are many types of head and neck cancers (HNC), including cancers of the oral cavity (including lip cancer and tongue cancer), larynx (laryngeal cancer), and pharynx (pharyngeal cancer). They may also affect the hypopharynx (hypopharyngeal cancer), nasal cavity (for example, nasopharyngeal cancer), or sinuses (paranasal sinus cancer). The causes for these cancers are varied. Researchers have identified a few risk factors. Among them are tobacco, alcohol and exposure to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) or the Epstein-Barr virus.
Knowing the symptoms of head and neck cancers may help catch them earlier. These symptoms may range from lingering sore throat and trouble swallowing to neck lumps and hoarseness in the voice. Those who experience some of these symptoms should speak to their physician. They may investigate further and order tests.
In the event that cancer is confirmed, treatments options will depend on age, general health, type and stage of cancer (an indicator of whether it has spread), and possible side effects. A patient’s preferences and the impact of treatment on quality of life are also considered. Cancer treatments continue to improve, giving patients greater options and better outcomes. They include: surgical options, radiation and chemotherapy to kill cancerous cells. Targeted therapies can address specific mutations that are responsible for cancer growth. Meanwhile, immunotherapy uses the body’s own cancer-fighting abilities. Clinical trials continue to bring new treatments to patients.
The cancer journey can be challenging. Organizations like the Cancer Support Community, an international network of affiliates, offer social and emotional support for people impacted by cancer. It also provides a community of support online and over the phone. It focuses on three areas of support for patients, including those with head and neck cancer, and their loved ones: direct service delivery, research and advocacy.
Cancer Support Community offer helpful resources, like the importance of a healthy diet for head and neck cancer patients before, during and after treatment. Eating well is important throughout the process. It helps prevent malnutrition and weight loss and improves outcomes. Plus, it prevents delays in treatments and longer hospital stays. In the Frankly Speaking About Cancer: Eating Well with Head and Neck Cancer book, patients and caregivers learn how they can empower themselves. It outlines what to expect from treatment and where to find help. There are also tips for coping with eating issues and treatment side effects, like dry mouth, nausea, diarrhea and constipation. It also has information and tips about dental and oral health care. You can find an array of easy, delicious recipes online, which take these challenges into account. Try the fish tacos, turkey meatballs, sweet potato chili, mixed berry crepes or smoothies packed with goodness. There are also suggestions for caregivers looking for ideas for nutrition-packed meals.
Whatever lies ahead, head and neck cancer patients and their families are not alone. Cancer Community Support offers guidance, resources, and expertise. Reach out and get connected to this invaluable network.
For more information, visit cancersupportcommunity.org and on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.