Pretreatment Consultations for Head and Neck Cancer

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

There are many steps to take before treatment can begin for head and neck cancer. This is one type of cancer where multidisciplinary treatment is very important. This means you will have providers from many different specialties involved in your care. Many of these providers will see and evaluate you before you start cancer treatment.

It can be a challenge to manage all of these appointments and understand all they have to say. Take someone (or two) with you to your appointments. Be sure you bring someone who can listen without being emotional, take good notes, and help you remember what was said after the appointments.

You may be asked to see some or all of the following members of the interdisciplinary team before starting treatment:

  • Surgical Oncology: Care team that performs surgery and manages recovery from surgery.
  • Radiation Oncology: Care team that plans and administers radiation therapy.
  • Medical Oncology: Care team that manages chemotherapy and other medications to treat the cancer.
  • Speech & Swallow: Speech language pathologists (SLP) will evaluate and help treat your speech and swallowing function before, during and/or after treatment.
  • Nutrition Services: Dietitians who will help you learn ways to cope with nutritional challenges, maintain your weight during treatment, and manage supplemental feedings if needed.
  • Dental Services: You will be asked to see a dentist prior to radiation. This may be a specialist or your regular dentist. Unfortunately, treatment can damage your teeth and mouth. Research has found that it is safer to remove any damaged or decaying teeth before treatment, so you may need to have teeth removed. Dental care will be important throughout treatment and for the rest of your life. Your dental provider will work with your oncology care team to provide recommended treatments to maintain dental health as much as possible.
  • Social Work: A social worker can help you find ways to manage the financial impact of treatment, manage employment concerns, and help you cope with the diagnosis and the stresses that come along with it.
  • Navigator: In many cancer centers, a navigator is available to provide education, be an advocate for you, and help you access services.

Keeping a record of treatments, tests and appointments can be a great help when seeing many providers, at follow up visits or in the event of a trip to the emergency room. The OncoPilot section has blank forms you can use to create the binder and articles that are helpful when navigating a new diagnosis.

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