Event Details
Date: 8 November 2023 - 9 November 2023

Location name: Torquay, UK

Location address: The Grand Hotel, Sea Front, Torbay Road, Torquay, TQ2 6NT, UK

Contact: Sharon Curtis


Chris Byrne, Advocate for The Swallows head and neck cancer charity and tongue cancer survivor.

A typical cancer conference is all data-heavy PowerPoint presentations on the finer points of the latest research. Not so at this event run by The Swallows head and neck cancer charity. Yes, we had the research. We learned about death dose curves, had a lesson in proton physics and we saw the future of targeted radiotherapy: protons delivered directly into the tumour by magnetic field targeting so avoiding the photon blast from standard radiotherapy. We had an update on photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy, which shines a light (pun intended) on new treatments for radiation induced xerostomia, often a life-long issue for patients.  

There were further research updates on salivary gland cancer, gene therapy treatment of radiation-induced xerostomia and cancer-related cognitive Impairment – or ‘chemo brain'.  

But not only did we hear how recent research can benefit patients, we also heard how patients deal with their head and neck cancers. This is where The Swallows conferences are unique. They are patient centred. This Torbay conference brought together clinicians, patients and care givers reminding us that patients have to live with the outcomes of their treatments for the rest of their lives.   

The Swallows conference is where research meets patients – helping with life after cancer treatment. Of the many inspirational patients we heard from, the Hereford laryngectomy patient swimming competitively with a modified snorkel mask was simply outstanding.  

Celebrity presentations balanced the science. Tommy Walsh (left) of BBC television’s Ground Force fame told us his head and neck cancer story, explaining the need for earlier diagnosis and why his grandchildren call him ‘zippy'. Michael Caines MBE, the award-winning TV chef, committed to launch a restaurant card/app to support head and neck cancer patients who need their meals modified. So much in two days. 

Chris Curtis, CEO of The Swallows, summed up the two days nicely when he reminded us that we are all one head and neck family. These last two days felt like a family reunion with everyone pulling together. 

Let’s get the head and neck family together again next year to hear about more research and more practical help for living a full life after head and neck cancer.