Your health care team
Your GP will arrange the first tests to assess your symptoms. If these tests do not rule out cancer, you will usually be referred to a specialist, who will arrange further tests. If head and neck cancer is diagnosed, the specialist will consider treatment options. Often these will be discussed with other health professionals at what is known as a multidisciplinary team (MDT) meeting.
During and after treatment, you will see a range of health professionals who specialise in different aspects of your care. It is recommended that complex head and neck cancer is treated in a specialist centre. If you have to travel a long way for treatment, you can ask Cancer Council about transport and accommodation assistance that may be available to you.
|ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist*||treats disorders of the ear, nose and throat|
|head and neck surgeon*||diagnoses and treats cancers of the head and neck; may be an ENT, general, plastic, or oral and maxillofacial surgeon|
|oral and maxillofacial surgeon*||treats disorders of the mouth, face and jaws|
|reconstructive (plastic) surgeon*||performs surgery that restores, repairs or reconstructs the body’s appearance and function|
|dentist or oral medicine specialist*||evaluates and treats the mouth and teeth, which can be affected by cancer treatment|
|radiation oncologist*||treats cancer by prescribing and overseeing a course of radiation therapy|
|medical oncologist*||treats cancer with drug therapies such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy (systemic treatment)|
|cancer care coordinator||coordinates your care, liaises with MDT members, and supports you throughout treatment; may be a clinical nurse consultant (CNC) or clinical nurse specialist (CNS)|
|nurse||administers drugs and provides care, information and support throughout treatment|
|speech pathologist||evaluates and treats communication, voice and swallowing difficulties during and after treatment|
|dietitian||helps with nutrition concerns and recommends changes to diet during treatment and recovery|
|social worker||links you and your family to support services and helps with emotional, practical and financial issues|
|counsellor, psychologist||help you manage your emotional response to diagnosis and treatment|
|physiotherapist, exercise physiologist||help restore movement and mobility, and improve fitness and wellbeing; physiotherapists also help with breathing and airway clearance and managing lymphoedema|
|occupational therapist||assists in adapting your living and working environment to help you resume usual activities after treatment|
|Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander liaison officer||if you identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, supports you and your family during treatment and recovery|
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
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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Practical advice and support during and after treatment
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