You might see a variety of doctors and other health professionals who specialise in different aspects of treatment.
Head and neck surgeons
There are different types of head and neck surgeons.
ENT doctors are specialists that treat conditions of the ear, nose, throat and neck. They are qualified surgeons and are also known as otorhinolaryngologists.
Maxillofacial surgeons train as both doctors and dentists. They specialise in conditions of the mouth, jaw, face and neck. They also do reconstructive surgery.
Plastic surgeons do reconstructive surgery. Plastic surgery is common after surgery to remove a cancer of the head or neck.
Neurosurgeons are surgeons who specialise in surgery to the brain and nervous system.
An oncologist is a doctor who specialises in treating cancer, most often with radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
A restorative dentist (prosthodontists) is a specialist in replacing lost tissues and teeth. They will assess your teeth and may recommend that you have some removed. This may be if the teeth are decaying or loose so that they don't cause problems later on.
The restorative dentist will tell you about how to look after your mouth and teeth. Especially during and after your treatment. They may send you to a dental hygienist for more help. Keeping your teeth and mouth clean reduces the risk of infection.
The dentist will help to plan your recovery with your surgeon. They'll try and ensure that you can speak and eat as well as possible afterwards. They may suggest using special false teeth or dental implants. Sometimes you need a replacement part (prosthesis). This can be for missing teeth or after the loss of some of the structure in the mouth.
Some people with nasal or sinus cancer have surgery to remove part of their upper jawbone. The surgeon uses a piece of bone from another part of the body to replace the missing piece. A restorative dentist can then fit a prosthesis with teeth. It attaches to the new jawbone using dental implants.
The hospital prosthetics department works closely with the surgeons and dentists. They help make your facial appearance as normal as possible after major surgery.
Head and neck clinical nurse specialist
A head and neck clinical nurse specialist specialises in cancers of the head and neck. They help to organise your care between doctors and other health professionals.
The specialist nurse also supports you in your treatment. They make sure you have the information you need so you can cope with treatment as well as possible.
Speech and language therapist
Speech and language therapists play an important role in helping you with communication, speech, and swallowing difficulties (dysphagia). They will start supporting you before treatment. This continues during and after treatment.
Other health professionals
You might also see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist). This is because nasal and sinus cancers can sometimes spread to the eyes or inside the skull.
You may also need help and support from other health specialists. This can include a dietitian. Social workers or benefits advisers can tell you about benefits.
Being cared for by a multidisciplinary team (MDT)
NHS guidelines suggests that a multidisciplinary team (MDT) should care for you if you have head and neck cancer. This is a team of health professionals who work together to decide on the best way forward for each patient.
The MDT may include:
- specialist head and neck surgeons
- specialist oncologists
- a head and neck radiologist
- a head and neck histopathologist
- a specialist nurse
- a dietitian
- a prosthodontist
- a speech therapist
You might see only one specialist but the team will still get together. Using your test results and case notes they discuss the best treatment options for you.