Managing side effects
It will take some time to recover from the physical and emotional changes caused by treatment for a head and neck cancer. Side effects can be temporary or permanent, and some will require ongoing management and rehabilitation.
This section provides information and tips to help you manage common side effects, including changes to eating, speech, breathing, appearance, sexuality and vision, ongoing pain and lymphoedema.
If you experience any of these problems, talk to your doctor, speech pathologist or dietitian. For more support, information and referral to services, call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Learn how to manage these common side effects:
- Mouth problems
- Taste, smell and appetite changes
- Swallowing difficulties
- Malnutrition and weight loss
- Changes to speech
- Breathing changes
- Pain and physical discomfort
- Changes to appearance
- Impact on sexuality and intimacy
- Vision changes
A/Prof David Wiesenfeld, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Director, Head and Neck Tumour Stream, The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Melbourne Health, VIC; Alan Bradbury, Consumer; Dr Ben Britton, Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist, John Hunter Hospital, NSW; Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, QLD; Jedda Clune, Senior Dietitian (Head and Neck Cancer), Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Dr Ben Dixon, ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Emma Hair, Senior Social Worker, St George Hospital, NSW; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kara Hutchinson, Head and Neck Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Julia Maclean, Speech Pathologist, St George Hospital, NSW; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Andrea Wong, Physiotherapist, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Need legal and financial assistance?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Managing cancer side effects
Learn more about the range of side effects cancer can cause, and how to manage these
Nutrition and cancer
Learn about nutrition, and suggest tips for eating well during and after cancer treatment
View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends