A STAITHES cancer-survivor has told his tale in order to raise awareness of a little-known form of cancer that is more common in the north-east than anywhere else in the country.
Head and neck cancer patient David McKenna (61) was diagnosed in 2008 but was able to fight off the disease and is now involved with Look A Head, a campaign to raise awareness of this little-known form of cancer.
Look A Head chairman Richard Wight, who is also a head and neck consultant at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, said: “The symptoms which may suggest a cancer in the head and neck are a hoarse voice, pain or discomfort in the throat, an ulcer on the tongue or other part of the mouth, a lump or white patch in the mouth, painful or difficult swallowing or a lump in the neck.
“If any of these symptoms last for four weeks or more, I would urge the person to see their doctor without delay.
“We have saved lives through early treatment.”
Head and neck cancer mainly affects people over the age of 40 and although it can often be completely cured, the treatment can be difficult and disfiguring.
Early detection and treatment is the key to a successful outcome.
Staithes man David McKenna told his own story: “As the bells pealed for the arrival of 1 January 2008, there were the cries of ‘happy New Year’.
“Days later I had cause to visit my GP with a skin irritation and while there I mentioned that I had a sore throat and lump in my neck.
“He was alarmed, sent me for referral and three weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue and a less than average chance of survival.
“I had received a death sentence, or so I thought.
“The treatment was very tough and it took its toll.”
Mr McKenna underwent a brutal course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, followed by neck dissection surgery, at James Cook hospital.
He added: “As a member of the public I am well aware of breast, bowel and lung cancer but I had never heard of head and neck cancer, nor had I any symptoms, or so I thought.
“There will be many out there with the attitude, ‘it’s just a sore throat’ or ‘ulcers aren’t important’.
“That attitude is highly dangerous, think again or it might be too late.
“At the moment I am recovering but it has been a long unpleasant road and I have not yet reached the end.”