Demi Jones, a contestant on ITV’s popular Love Island show in 2020, received treatment for thyroid cancer at Queen Alexandra Hospital.
When Demi was diagnosed with cancer in May 2021, there were 372 people referred to Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust for tests on suspected head and neck cancers, of these six people were later diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
A year later in May 2022, there were 491 referrals to the trust, with one person later diagnosed with thyroid cancer - an increase of 119 referrals.
Matthew Ward is head and neck and thyroid cancer multidisciplinary team lead at the trust.
He said: ‘It’s fantastic that Demi has been so upfront in the media about her cancer diagnosis and treatment.
‘I have certainly seen a number of patients in recent months who have come to see us in the ENT department because they have read about Demi’s journey.
‘Thyroid cancer can affect very young patients, and so it is important that people do see a specialist if they are worried.’
Now cancer free, Demi said: ‘I’m thrilled to see an increase in the number of people getting tested for head and neck cancers since I’ve openly shared my personal story, it really highlights the impact of social media and how important it is to talk.
‘Although it’s a horrible thing to go through, I’m so pleased to have helped people and continue to encourage, especially young people, to get checked and potentially save lives.’
QA has a large thyroid practice in the ENT department, with three specialist thyroid surgeons who treat everyone with thyroid lumps.
Typically, patients get referred by their GP having noticed a lump in their neck, usually at the front near the Adam’s Apple.
Patients are then assessed in the clinic, using an ultrasound scan and a blood test.
Matthew said: ‘Thankfully, most of the thyroid lumps we see are not cancerous, and once we have the scan results, we can reassure the majority of patients that they don’t need any further treatment.
‘If we do have any concerns on the scan, then we would proceed to take a needle biopsy which helps guide us what to do next.
‘If the needle biopsy is worrying, then usually we proceed with thyroid surgery. If this confirms cancer, then further treatments are sometimes needed, depending on a number of factors.
‘Thankfully, the vast majority of thyroid cancers respond very well to treatment, and most of our patients will be cured of their cancer.
‘As with any cancer, the earlier we catch thyroid cancers then the easier they are to treat.’
‘If people are worried about a lump, then they should see their GP in the first instance and then be referred to an appropriately trained specialist.
‘Thankfully most lumps turn out to be benign, and most of the time we can reassure patients that all is well.’