Head and neck cancers
Head and neck cancer refers to malignant tumours of the head and neck region excluding the eyes, brain and thyroid. Abundant alcohol consumption and smoking are the most important risk factors. Rarely, a patient with some chronic disease of the mucous membranes of the mouth falls ill with this type of cancer, with no contributing risk from tobacco or alcohol.
Treatment of cancer of the mouth and throat is demanding. These cancers reside in an area of the body that affects our basic functions: speaking, swallowing and breathing. The cancer itself and its treatment create a tissue defect in the area of the mouth or throat, and this may cause substantial functional impairment.
The treatment options are surgery and/or radiation therapy in combination with chemotherapy. The treatment program is usually designed by a team of specialist physicians and nurses.
If the cancer makes it compulsory for the surgeon to remove some crucial structure of the mouth or throat, the situation needs to be corrected by a plastic surgeon. The goal of treatment is always that the function and structures of the patient's mouth and throat are reconstructed as well as possible.
For rehabilitation, a wide set of experts is needed and is available for the patient:
- ear, nose and throat specialists
- speech therapists
- nutritional therapists
- social workers
Recovering from the treatment of head and neck cancer is a tedious and time consuming process, but the goal of rehabilitation is that the patient regains full function and quality of life.