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Cancer awareness for next generation of dentists

Bryan Webber and Nick Claydon, owner of Rhiwbina Dental at the Pines, Cardiff.

05 July 2024

Four years ago, Bryan Webber was patient number one on the head and neck cancer clinical trial PEARL at Velindre Cancer Centre.

Today he is using his experience of cancer diagnosis, treatment and clinical trials to support the next generation of dentists.

Bryan is a retired dentist, working in the NHS for 50 years and the last 30 years in a training role. He is passionate about giving dental trainees a better understanding of the part they can play in early detection of cancer, as well as the problems patients experience as a result of their cancer treatment.

Bryan remembers how he started being invited to talk to dental graduates. He said:

“When I started treatment for my cancer, I decided to post some pictures on Facebook to show my friends what was happening to me. I posted pictures of my mouth and palate, the ulcers that developed, my MRI and PET scans, everything! My dental friends were fascinated and soon I was being invited to come and tell my story to various groups in the dental sector, including dental students.

"Early diagnosis is vital to successful cancer treatment and dentists are in the right place to notice changes in their patients’ mouth. And then when they refer a patient to see their GP, that is the end of it usually – they don’t see what happens after that.

"I take them through my cancer experience, the tests that were done, the treatment and why I chose to take part in the PEARL clinical trial. I also tell them about the physical and psychological effect head and neck cancer has on people. Treatment is difficult and I had times when I did not think I could cope with it. With the help of family friends and the Patient Support Unit at Velindre Cancer Centre, I was able to complete my treatment. “

Bryan has done talks all over Wales and even been to Leeds to talk to 150 newly graduated dentists.

Feedback on his presentations has been overwhelmingly positive and he is keen to keep combining his professional expertise with his personal cancer story to ensure the dentists of the future are equipped to help with early detection of oral cancers.

Bryan still has side effects from his cancer – lack of saliva making some foods difficult to digest, inability to taste his favourite red wine and as Chairman of the Cardiff Male Voice Choir his voice has dropped and he’s now one of the lowest of the low in hitting the bass notes. While some of the side effects are permanent, Bryan says he can live with them because he is still here, four years on.

Bryan believes in the importance of patients considering taking part in a clinical trial. He sad:

“Clinical trials are so important – without them we wouldn’t have new drugs, new treatments. By taking part in the PEARL trial, I have played my part in getting better treatment for people with head and neck cancer.”

In addition to this work in his professional community, Bryan continues to advocate for the patient as a patient representative on Velindre’s Senior Leadership Group and RD&I sub-committee.

Thanks, Bryan for helping educate the next generation of dentists about their role in the early detection of cancer and for your continued support of research at Velindre!

Bryan's story was featured on ITV Wales at Six on Thursday 4 July 2024.

Cancer Research Wales funded the PEARL clinical trial and have featured Bryan on their website celebrating International Clinical Trials Day 2024.

Bryan talks more about his experience on the PEARL clinical trial

Velindre University NHS Trust, Unit 2,Charnwood Court, Parc Nantgarw, Nantgarw, Cardiff, CF15 7QZ
Tel: 029 2019 6161