Preparing for treatment
Treatment for head and neck cancers can affect your mouth, gums and teeth. Before treatment starts:
See a general dentist or special needs dentist – Have a thorough check-up and ask for an oral health care plan. The plan outlines any dental work you need before treatment starts, and also provides advice on how to care for your mouth before, during and after treatment.
Improve diet and nutrition – People with a head and neck cancer often lose a lot of weight and may become malnourished. A dietitian can suggest ways to maintain your weight by changing your diet or taking special drinks (liquid supplements). This will help improve your strength and lead to better treatment outcomes.
Begin an exercise program – This will help build up the strength needed for recovery. Talk to your doctor about this.
Stop smoking – If you are a smoker, it is important to stop smoking before starting treatment. If you continue to smoke, you may not respond to treatment as well as people who don’t smoke. Also, smoking may make side effects worse and increase the chance of a second primary cancer. See your doctor, call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit icanquit.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof David Wiesenfeld, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Director, Head and Neck Tumour Stream, The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Melbourne Health, VIC; Alan Bradbury, Consumer; Dr Ben Britton, Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist, John Hunter Hospital, NSW; Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, QLD; Jedda Clune, Senior Dietitian (Head and Neck Cancer), Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Dr Ben Dixon, ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Emma Hair, Senior Social Worker, St George Hospital, NSW; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kara Hutchinson, Head and Neck Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Julia Maclean, Speech Pathologist, St George Hospital, NSW; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Andrea Wong, Physiotherapist, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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