Volunteering with SGC UK at a conference or event

By Rosanna Hunter Share this article

What does it involve? A former SGCUK volunteer gives you the lowdown.

To spread the word about our work, and build our network amongst patients, health professionals and researchers, SGCUK often has a presence at conferences in the UK, and beyond. Sometimes, we have a stall there, too. Volunteers who’d like to come along and help us man (or woman) our stall are always welcome.

The Swallows Head & Neck Cancer conference 2023 - An SGCUK volunteer’s account

Early in November, an intrepid band of three SGCUK representatives headed down to Torquay, to attend the 2023 conference of head and neck cancer charity, The Swallows. It was a great event, which helped us build lots of important new connections.

What do you do as a volunteer? First job – help set up the SGCUK stall, with banners, posters, brochures and giveaways. (Swearing permitted as you wrestle with the pop-up banner.) Then, during the conference, talk to all comers to the stand explaining who we are, taking people’s details, encouraging them to join our network, and giving them any relevant info, they need.

Who came to the stand? Firstly, people living with Salivary Gland Cancers. So, if you’re living with SGC too, you’d make a great volunteer. It’s amazing to see people who’ve never met anyone else with their cancer be able to talk to someone face-to-face who understands their situation completely.

Then, we met lots of healthcare professionals in the area of head and neck oncology. This is brilliant, because they can then tell any patients with these rare cancers about us, so they can join our network for more information and support. Plus, as we continue our work to understand and define best practice in everything from diagnosis to radiotherapy treatment for these rare cancers, connections to healthcare professionals across the UK will be vital.

There are plenty of opportunities to listen to the speakers, too, and I learnt lots about everything from research to new treatments. A couple of examples? I heard about an NHS run acupuncture treatment that was aiming to restimulate patient’s salivary glands after radiotherapy. (One patient who’d suffered with a very dry mouth was delighted that they were now able to eat their favorite ham sandwiches again.) There was also an interesting talk about a promising new treatment called photobiomodulation. It uses light to reduce the inflammation and pain caused by radiotherapy – and may help to minimise the late onset effects of radiotherapy treatment, too. One to watch! Of course, there was also time to relax in the evening, explore the town, and meet other attendees in a more informal setting (the bar).

It was great to build stronger connections with the speakers and researchers, a number of whom will hopefully become good friends of, and advocates for, Salivary Gland Cancer UK. Volunteers get their travel (and accommodation, where needed) paid for – so there’s no cost involved. Don’t worry, either, that you need to be an expert on Salivary Gland Cancers. I’m certainly not, and it’s not needed to help out on the stall.

Interested in volunteering with SGCUK?

Send an email entitled 'Volunteering' to [email protected] with a sentence or two about why you’d like to volunteer (for example, perhaps you live with salivary gland cancer, or care for or work with those with SGC’s). Tell us your location, too – so we can match people with events near them.