Happy Waitangi Day! Here is the latest head and neck cancer news from New Zealand and around the world.

The Man who's Time is Up

It started with a thumping, irregular pain on the right side of his head. The pain would pulsate in brief, intense waves, then fall silent. It became more regular, more fierce. Then he found a hard lump, the size of a pea, and then he went to see his doctor.

Some 171 days later, when they finally operated on Peter Kroon, the cancer on his right eyebrow had grown. Now it was almost the size of a golfball. It had spread into his eyesocket, his skull and his nerves. The operation to extract it took ten hours. He lost his eye, his eyesocket, his cheekbone, part of his skull. Afterwards, the pain was sometimes so bad he would wake in the night, screaming.

Had the operation happened within 14 days - as it was meant to - Peter could have expected to return to work within two days.

Because it didn’t, Peter is missing half his face, sleeps in a van, cannot work, and lives off $400 a week. He was given a 10 per cent chance of surviving five years. That five years just expired; he’s now on borrowed time.


High Court ruling means ACC will accept more treatment injury claims: lawyers

A landmark High Court ruling means ACC will be more likely to accept claims for injuries resulting from treatment by a health professional, lawyers say. 

On Friday Judge Peter Churchman found against ACC in an appeal over two District Court rulings on treatment injury cases. 

One case involved a woman who had a stroke as a result of surgery on a brain aneurism and another was a woman was left with incontinence and a numb leg after spinal surgery. 


Want health professionals to help reduce medical errors? Patient Safety Movement releases new curriculum


The patient safety curriculum is one of 17 Actionable Patient Safety Solutions (APSS) made available to organizations for free to help train health professionals in systems science so they can help find ways to reduce preventable patient deaths, officials said.

RELATED: Patient harm can be prevented. Here's how MedStar Health is doing it

“The goal is to get every health professional to think in a system way,” said Steven Scheinman, M.D., the president and dean of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. He led a Patient Safety Movement working group which included experts from Geisinger, San Diego State, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Health, and MedStar Georgetown to develop the curriculum over an 18-month period.

Read more here….

New MRI scanner to combat patient wait times

Wait times for potentially life saving scans could be cut in the top of the south with the purchase of a new $1.5m MRI.

Ministry of Health bosses have revealed a new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner has been bought for Nelson Hospital in a bid to cope with growing demand.

There are currently 900 people booked to have scans in Nelson and Marlborough between now and 2021, 411 people of those are deemed non-urgent as the scans are part of an ongoing surveillance plan.

Across Nelson and Marlborough 220 and 160 MRI scans are done every month.. Read more...

Managing living alone with illness, with Inspire member suggestions -

Steven Petrow recently wrote a piece at The Washington Post in which he described rescheduling a colonoscopy three times. Not out of fear of pain or cancer, but because he didn’t know who to ask to drive him home while in his sedated state. 

The experience precipitated a larger question for Petrow, a single man in his 60s – how to navigate a future without a spouse or partner who would care for him in case of illness or frailty. 

It’s a question facing many. The Pew Research Center reported that the number of people in the US who are “unpartnered” was 42 percent in 2017, with the largest cohorts being adults under 35 years and adults 65 years and older. 

Though it is difficult to quantify the number of Inspire members who might self-identify as living alone, many do write candidly about physical and emotional solitude. In addition to the sadness or loneliness associated with aloneness, there is fear – in cases of both chronic illness and acute emergency, how do you care for yourself? Read more...

Insomnia and Cancer

I am a person who always was able to sleep and would generally be out before my head ever hit the pillow. Now I found myself tossing and turning for hours at a time. I would try reading, but then would just delay my sleep longer. Ironically, the cancer and chemo were making me even more tired, and I needed the sleep more than ever so my body could heal. What was happening to me?

I soon figured out I had insomnia. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) defines insomnia as, “the experience of having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep during the night.”

ASCO goes on to say that most people experience insomnia at some time in their lives, but the risk increases with cancer. This has been a long hard road for me since I was diagnosed eight years ago. Many cancer survivors – myself included – know that when we lay in bed unable to sleep, we begin to worry about the cancer, treatments and what the future holds for us. I got less than two hours of sleep from insomnia before my last bone marrow biopsy and my adrenaline was so high that the usual sedatives I was on did not work to put me in a twilight zone. That was not fun!  

Read more....

Updated Staging of Head and Neck Cancer

Hisham Mehanna, PhD, BMedSc, MBChB, FRCS, chair, Head and Neck Surgery director, Institute of Head and Neck Studies and Education at the School of Cancer Studies, University of Birmingham, discusses the implications of the updated staging system for patients with HPV-positive head and neck cancer.

In 2018, 3 changes were made to the staging of head and neck cancer following the release of the eighth edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. Based on the new system, there are 2 sections: 1 that accounts for staging prior to diagnosis and 1 that accounts for staging following initial treatment.

Previously, the clinical staging system for nodal disease was very similar to the pathologic staging system. Now, these 2 systems are separate entities, explains Mehanna. Adjusting to the newly defined staging system will take time, he adds. It is important to note that even though the stages were reclassified, the treatment should remain the same. If a patient had stage IV disease in the old system and now has stage II disease according to the new system, the patient should remain on the same treatment, concludes Mehanna. You can read more and watch the video here….



Constant sore throat could be early warning sign of cancer, experts warn

More than 1,700 people are diagnosed with throat cancer every year - 80 per cent of whom are men

A SORE throat that just won't go away could be an early sign of cancer, experts have warned.

Combine it with an earache, difficulty swallowing or shortness of breath and you could be at twice the risk of laryngeal cancer, new findings show.

Read more here…


Morbidity and mortality among patients with head and neck cancer in the Emergency Department: A national perspective

A total of 31,390 patients from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample were evaluated to determine the morbidity and mortality among those with head and neck cancer seen in the emergency department. Authors described patient and hospital attributes, outcomes, and charges. They also recognized the predictors of admission and mortality. They noted 72.8% of cases were admitted, and 0.5% died in the emergency department, while 5.0% died during admission. The highest incidence of admission was seen in candidates with cancer of unexplained primary site. Individuals with oropharyngeal cancer, those from higher income areas, and privately insured subjects were seen to have the highest death rates. Read more….

Equity, not equality, will advance cancer care

The news of CRISPER-engineered baby points to how incredible the speed of innovation can be — albeit often unconstrained by traditional bioethical principles. In cancer research, too, innovative targeted therapies or “precision medicine” have been making headlines over national and international newspapers. Given this constant coverage, it is convenient to believe that we are on the right track towards advancing cancer care research. At the technological and individual, maybe so; at the population level, not so much. 

However, unlike other social policies, health care affects everyone — regardless of their financial, social, or economic station.The current challenge in cancer care research is not of equality — for the most part, every patient is treated equally; it is that of inequity — treating every person fairly and being cognizant of the impact of societal circumstances on individual health. Read more...


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