GPs to be sent advice book on spotting signs of head and neck cancer

Thousands of family doctors are to be given free books to help them spot head and neck cancer in a bid to drive up diagnosis rates.

The guides aim to help doctors spot the different types of cancer that can occur in the head and neck - from more than 30 sites where the disease can start.

The books have been created by the British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (BAOMS) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

Each of the UK's 9,400 GP practices will receive a free copy, highlighting key signs to look out for and how to refer patients quickly.

Alex Goodson, a specialist registrar in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Morriston Hospital near Swansea in Wales, co-wrote the book.

He said: "This is an invaluable resource for medical students and those in an established practice. The book is specifically designed to inform primary care clinicians about an area of healthcare that many may have had little training in.

"The treatment algorithms in the toolkit mean GPs will be able to recognise sinister features more easily, and make earlier referrals so that patients access appropriate treatment programmes more quickly. I believe this will save lives and mean less aggressive, longer-term therapy for patients."

Oral cancer is the most common type of head and neck cancer and is on the rise, with experts blaming alcohol, smoking and poor diets.

In 2013, there were 7,591 new cases of oral cancer in the UK.

Three-year survival rates vary for all types of head and neck cancer vary from about 30% for cancer of the bottom of the throat up to about 70% for cancer of the voice box.

Common symptoms of oral cancer include an ulcer does not heal within a few weeks, red or white patches in the mouth that do not go away quickly and difficulty swallowing or pain when chewing or swallowing.


Author Professor Peter Brennan, an oral and facial surgeon at Portsmouth Hospitals, said the book would save lives.

He said it was not telling GPs what to do, adding: "It's an informative book."

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