Leading Research into Head & Neck Cancer

Suzie Cooke

Suzie's Story - a lesson in not taking 'no' for an answer

All too often we read about patients whose symptoms have been overlooked or misunderstood and this can mean treatment is not always as effective as it could be if the cancer is treated early.  Suzie Cooke’s heart-warming story demonstrates all too clearly how perseverance and a second opinion paid off.

Suzie had had some dental problems, she had noticed a lump in her neck and she’d been feeling exhausted for several months, so she went to her GP.  He suggested it was probably a swollen gland and the menopause, so she shouldn’t worry.  Her symptoms persisted so she returned to her GP who referred her to a local hospital.  Eventually, after five months, the hospital confirmed her diagnosis of tonsil cancer on, of all days, her 50th birthday. Her oncologist then told her that the cancer was inoperable and recommended a course of chemotherapy.

Suzie takes up the story; “I asked for a second opinion from Peter Rhys Evans at The Royal Marsden and he operated on me. I had a partial neck dissection followed by radiotherapy.”

That was seven years ago.  Suzie has recovered completely and is now leading a completely normal and full life.  Her advice to anyone who finds they have persistent symptoms?  “Seek help and advice as quickly as you can and do not take ‘no’ for an answer!”

Head and neck cancer symptoms can often appear as a sore place in the mouth, an ulcer that persists or a lump.   Curative treatment is possible in the earliest head and neck tumours with impressive cure rates of around 80-90% using surgery and/or radiotherapy.

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