Preparing for treatment
It is important to look after your health before treatment begins. This will help you cope with side effects and can improve treatment outcomes.
Stop smokingIf you smoke, aim to quit before starting treatment. If you keep smoking, you may not respond as well to treatment, side effects may be worse and you will have a higher risk of a new cancer. See your doctor or call the Quitline on 13 7848.
Begin or continue an exercise programExercise will help build up your strength for recovery. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about the right type of exercise for you.
Improve diet and nutritionA dietitian can suggest ways to maintain your weight during treatment by changing your diet or taking special drinks (liquid supplements). This will help improve your strength and may mean treatment works better.
Avoid alcoholAlcohol can irritate mouth sores caused by the cancer or treatment
See a dentistTreatments for head and neck cancer can affect your mouth, gums and teeth. Your specialist may refer you to a special needs dentist who understands the treatments you will be having. You will need a full check-up and an oral health care plan covering any dental work you need and how to care for your mouth.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
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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