Your health care team

Your GP will usually arrange the first tests to assess your symptoms. If these tests do not rule out cancer, you will usually be referred to a specialist. The specialist will arrange further tests.

If head and neck cancer is diagnosed, the specialist will advise you about treatment options. Once your treatment for head and neck cancer begins, you will be cared for by a range of health professionals who specialise in different aspects of your treatment. This is often referred to as a multidisciplinary team (MDT) and it may include some or all of the health professionals listed below.

The different roles

  • ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist – treats disorders of the ear, nose and throat
  • head and neck surgeon – ENT or general surgeon specialising in cancer of the head and neck
  • oral (maxillofacial) surgeon – specialises in surgery to the face and jaws
  • reconstructive surgeon – performs surgery that restores, repairs or reconstructs the body’s appearance and function
  • radiation oncologist – prescribes and coordinates the course of radiation therapy
  • medical oncologist – prescribes and coordinates chemotherapy, hormone therapy and targeted drug therapy
  • radiation therapist – plans and delivers radiation therapy treatment
  • nurses and cancer nurse coordinators – coordinate your care, liaise with other members of the MDT, and support you and your family throughout treatment
  • audiologist – diagnoses and treats hearing problems
  • dentist or oral medicine specialist – evaluates and treats the mouth and teeth
  • prosthodontist – specialises in replacing any missing teeth
  • gastroenterologist – specialises in disorders of the digestive system, and inserts a feeding tube if required
  • speech pathologist – evaluates and treats communication, voice and swallowing difficulties during and after treatment
  • dietitian – recommends an eating plan to follow while you are in treatment and recovery
  • social worker – links you to support services and helps you with emotional, practical and financial issues
  • counsellor, psychologist – provide emotional support and help manage any feelings of depression and anxiety
  • physiotherapist, occupational therapist – assist with physical and practical problems, including restoring range of movement after surgery and managing lymphoedema
  • palliative care team – specialise in pain and symptom control to maximise wellbeing and improve quality of life

This information was last reviewed in May 2017
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