Vision changes and hearing loss
If the cancer is in your eye socket, the surgeon may have to remove your eye (orbital exenteration). The empty eye socket will be replaced by a sphere of tissue from another part of your body. This keeps the structure of the eye socket.
Later you can be fitted for an artificial eye, which is painted to look like your remaining eye and surrounding tissue. The eye is like a large contact lens that fits over the new tissue in the eye socket.
You will still be able to see with your remaining eye, but your depth perception and peripheral vision won’t be as good. You will usually still be able to drive and play sport, but it may take time to get used to the changes. Before you start driving again, tell your driver licensing authority about the changes in your vision, as there may be restrictions you have to follow. The licensing authority may request information from your doctor to decide if you are medically fit to drive.
Some treatments for head and neck cancer can affect your hearing. Certain chemotherapy drugs can cause hearing loss. Sometimes the first sign of this is ringing in the ears (tinnitus), so let your doctors know if you experience this. Radiation therapy can damage the internal structure of the ear, causing fluid to build up behind the eardrums and leading to loss of hearing. Some surgeries to the head and neck, especially for nasopharyngeal cancer, can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Ask your treatment team whether you are at risk of hearing loss and if you should have your hearing tested after treatment ends.
Podcast for people affected by cancer
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A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; Dr Sophie Beaumont, Head of Dental Oncology, Dental Practitioner, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Bena Brown, Speech Pathologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Senior Research Fellow, Menzies School of Health Research, QLD; Dr Teresa Brown, Assistant Director, Nutrition and Dietetics, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Lisa Castle-Burns, Head and Neck Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, The Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Ben Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, GenesisCare Rockhampton and Brisbane, QLD; Elaine Cook, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Dr Andrew Foreman, Specialist Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Tony Houey, Consumer; Dr Annette Lim, Medical Oncologist and Clinician Researcher – Head and Neck and Non-melanoma Skin Cancer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The University of Melbourne, VIC; Paula Macleod, Head, Neck and Thyroid Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Dr Aoife McGarvey, Physiotherapist and Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner, Physio Living, Newcastle, NSW; Rick Pointon, Consumer; Teresa Simpson Senior Clinician, Psycho-Oncology Social Work Service, Cancer Therapy Centre, Liverpool Hospital, NSW.
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