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Liverpool Cancer Survivor #SpeaksOut

Head and Neck Cancer

‘I had no idea the lump in my neck was mouth cancer’ – cancer survivor from Liverpool #SpeaksOut

After surviving his own experience of head and neck cancer, Ed Grocott is passionate about helping charity North West Cancer Research (NWCR) raise awareness of the disease.

Ed Grocott, 68, from West Derby in Liverpool, was diagnosed with a squamous cell carcinoma (the most common form of mouth cancer) in 2009, after noticing a lump in his neck.

Despite having no other symptoms, Ed consulted his GP and after blood test results showing negative for infections, he was referred to a specialist neck lump clinic where he underwent tests and a biopsy, as well as MRI and CT scans.

Results showed he had squamous cell carcinoma at the base of his tongue which had spread into the lymph glands down the side of his neck. Very shortly afterwards, he underwent surgery at Aintree Hospital to have the tumour removed, followed by an intensive six-week course of radiotherapy at Clatterbridge Hospital.

His treatment was successful, and he was told he was cured in 2015, after being cancer-free for five years. However, almost a decade after finishing treatment, Ed now suffers from osteoradionecrosis, bone death due to radiation, and numbness down the right side of his neck and lower jaw.

Ed said: “The diagnosis was so quick, from noticing the lump to having my surgery took just two months. I was diagnosed with stage one cancer of the tongue, but by the time I underwent surgery it had progressed to stage two, which shows just how quickly this type of cancer can progress.

“This is why knowing the symptoms of head and neck cancer is so important. When I noticed my lump the thought that it was cancer didn’t even enter my mind. I’m not a smoker, I only smoked in my early twenties, and although I enjoy a drink, I was told two years after treatment that my cancer was caused by the HPV16 virus and wasn't a lifestyle-linked cancer.

“I know from first-hand experience how debilitating head and neck cancer can be. Although successful, my treatment has left me with some serious side effects. For eight weeks I could eat very little and it took about 12-months to return to eating normally. One of my saliva glands also stopped working due to radiotherapy, leaving me with a noticeably drier mouth, and the osteoradionecrosis might mean that I will need corrective jaw surgery in future.”

Ed will support North West Cancer Research’s #SpeakOut campaign in April which will raise awareness of the symptoms of head and neck cancer and encourage people to visit their GP or dentist if they have any concerns.

He added: “Head and neck cancers are one of the biggest cancer killers in the North West and by sharing my story as part of the #SpeakOut campaign, hopefully I can help raise more awareness of the disease and its symptoms.

“I would urge anyone, man or woman, to visit their GP or dentist if they have any concerns, especially if they notice early cancer warning signs.”

To find out more about the symptoms of head and neck cancer and support North West Cancer Research’s #SpeakOut campaign click here.

You can support research into cancers like head and neck by donating today.