On the back of attending the Global Oral Cancer Forum LTAMC realised that just talking to the public and other health professionals could only address part of the mouth cancer challenge. Public policy changes will be necessary to further reduce the risks factors, promote early presentation and speed up detection by healthcare workers.
Press Release: SMC Approves New Drug to Treat Oral Cancer
11th September 2017
New cases of head and neck cancer are amongst the fastest increasing cancers in men in Scotland today. Yet, knowledge of this disease in the general public is poor and many patients (just over half) will present with advanced disease. The work of our charity “let’s talk about mouth cancer” is aimed at raising awareness with both the general public and healthcare professionals of the signs and symptoms empowering them to recognise the disease early. When the disease is detected at a late stage then treatment is intensive and patient survival is poor. Despite advances in medical care and surgery, survival has not improved for nearly 50 years. Treatment with the drug Nivolumab is the first therapy to bring about significant and meaningful improvement in the survival of patients with advanced head and neck cancer. For patients with recurrent disease the proportion alive at 12 months after Nivolumab treatment is more than twice the number of patients compared to the present standard of care. It also increased the average time all patients survived by nearly 50%. There has never been any other treatment that has offered such marked survival improvement for patients with advanced head and neck cancer.
The husband of a lady who died very recently from cancer of the mouth said to us “this type of improvement in survival would have radically changed how we spent our remaining time together… for the better.” Unfortunately, Nivolumab was not available for her.
There can be no doubt that the drug Nivolumab is a game-changer in the treatment of advanced head and neck cancer but, survival is by far the best if the disease is detected at an early stage – don’t delay in mentioning possible symptoms of mouth cancer to your doctor or dentist!
Prof Victor Lopes. Trustee & Policy Adviser.
A significant cause of head & neck cancer can be Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), this virus is also the primary cause of cervical cancer. To this end throughout the UK a vaccination against HPV is given to teenage girls, however boys do not receive it. LTAMC are part of HPV Action (www.hpvaction.org) which lobby and campaign to correct this oversight. We believe in gender neutral vaccination so everybody can be protected from HPV and its potential to cause head & neck cancer (in addition to cancers of the anus, the vulva & vagina in women and the penis in men). HPV is estimated to be responsible for 5% of all cancers!
The first part of our efforts was to write a letter to Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Public Health and Sport which detailed the sound reasoning behind our drive for extending HPV vaccination to teenage boys. A copy of this letter was sent to all 129 MSPs.
In support of our efforts Bill Bowman MSP kindly lodged Motion S5M-03752 advocating for gender neutral vaccination which was signed by MSPs from across the Holyrood chamber.
A letter in reply was received from the Scottish Government. We do not feel they addressed our arguments and are considering the next moves to further this cause.