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03 September 2015

NICE consults on draft guideline on Upper aerodigestive tract cancers

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published draft recommendations to help tackle local variation and improve survival rates for cancers that affect the airways of the head and neck.

The mouth is the area most commonly affected by these types of cancer. According to Cancer Research UK more than 300,000 new cases of oral cancer were estimated to have been diagnosed worldwide in 2012. In the past decade, UK oral cancer incidence rates have increased by a third and the chance of a person dying has risen by around 10%. The second most common area is the larynx. In the UK, there are about 2,400 new cases of laryngeal cancer each year, and it is five times more common in men than women, according to NHS Choices.  

The new draft guideline includes recommendations on the best tests to help diagnose these types of cancers earlier, which treatments are most suitable at each stage and what information should be provided to people throughout their treatment.

Smoking is a major contributing factor for these types of cancer and is linked to around two out of three cases in the UK. The draft guideline also recommends that physicians inform people that if they continue to smoke, their treatment may have more side effects and could be less effective. People with these cancers should be offered help to stop smoking, in line with existing NICE guidance.

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Health and Social Care Director at NICE, said: “Diagnosing and treating the range of cancers that affect the upper aerodigestive tract is complex. Healthcare professionals often face difficult decisions weighing up investigations, treatments and procedures, alongside making sure each individual is given tailored support throughout.

“By helping healthcare professionals identify the most effective tests and suitable treatments, as well as the information that should be given to people, we hope this new guideline will ensure that people across the country all receive the same high-quality care. We now encourage all professionals and organisations with a relevant interest in this guideline to share their thoughts on the draft recommendations.”

The consultation for the draft NICE guideline will remain open until Thursday 15 October 2015. Comments will then be reviewed before the final guideline is published for NHS use early next year.


For more information call the NICE press office on 0300 323 0142 or out of hours on 07775 583 813.


Notes to Editors

Further information

  1. The draft guidance for ‘Upper aerodigestive tract cancer’ will be available at /guidance/indevelopment/gid-cgwave0668 from Thursday 3 September 2015.
  2. This draft guideline does not cover referral from primary care. This is included in the updated NICE guideline ‘Referral guidelines for suspected cancer’.
  3. According to Cancer Research UK statistics:
  • Around 6,800 people were diagnosed with oral cancer in 2011 in the UK which equates to more than 18 people every day.
  • Around 2,100 people died of oral cancer in 2012 in the UK. This equates to around 6 people every day.
  • An estimated 91% of oral cancers in the UK are linked to lifestyle factors including smoking (65%), alcohol (30%), and infections (13%).

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