If head and neck cancer returns

Follow-up after treatment

After treatment, you will need regular check-ups to monitor your health and confirm that the cancer hasn’t come back. You will also receive continued support from a speech pathologist and dietitian as you need it, or you may be referred to local services.

Tests will include imaging scans, as well as physical and visual examinations of your head and neck. Over time, if there are no further problems, your check-ups will become less frequent. If you notice any new symptoms in-between check-ups, you should let your GP or specialist know as soon as possible.

What if the cancer returns?

For some people, head and neck cancer does come back after treatment, which is known as a relapse or a recurrence. This is why it is important to have regular check-ups so that any recurring cancer can be found as soon as possible.

If the cancer is only in the head and neck, further treatment is a likely option. You may have surgery to remove the cancer, or you may be able to have radiation therapy, depending on your previous treatment.

If you are offered radiation therapy, it may be given with chemotherapy, or you may just be given chemotherapy by itself to try to control the cancer for as long as possible. Your doctor will discuss the types of treatment available to you.

– Marty

This information was last reviewed in May 2017
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