Head and Neck Cancer

Advanced technologies combine with complementary therapies to provide customize treatments that can lead to excellent outcomes for the special needs of the Head and Neck Cancer patient.

Head and Neck Oncology Nurse Navigator

The Nurse Navigator guides the patient from diagnosis into survivorship, collaborating and coordinating with all members of the healthcare team. The Navigator helps empower the patient and caregivers to make educated decisions regarding their course of treatment by providing quality information and resources, identifying and helping overcome any barriers to receiving their care, and being the “go-to” person when questions and concerns arise. The Oncology Nurse Navigator is an unbiased party specializing in dealing with the unique physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the Head and Neck cancer patient.

Radiation Oncologist

Radiation therapy often plays a role in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer. Depending on the patient’s presentation, may be used either before or after surgery, with or without chemotherapy or may be used in place of surgery with or without chemotherapy. In most cases some form of external beam radiation – either 3D conformal or IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy) – are recommended; however, in others, brachytherapy (internal radiation) may be a better option.

Both forms of radiation treatments are available at the DFCC. To ensure that an individual’s treatment is best suited for them, radiation oncologists meet regularly with head and neck surgeons and medical oncologists to discuss individual head and neck cancer cases. The goal of this multi-disciplinary approach is to decipher (and offer) the best treatment option for a particular patient.

In 2012, almost every patient with a head & neck cancer diagnosis was presented to the Head & Neck tumor conference. Below is a breakdown of the different head and neck cancers that were seen at the DFCC in 2012:

  • Tongue 15
  • Oropharynx 5
  • Other Oral Cavity & Pharynx 5
  • Tonsil 3
  • Nasopharynx 2
  • Hypopharynx 1
  • Lip 0
  • Salivary Glands 0
  • Gum & Other Mouth 0

Oncology Clinical Trials

The DFCC has an active number of research studies to find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancers of the head and neck. These trials may involve the use of new methods for early detection, novel drugs that are not currently approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), or a new combination or dosing of existing FDA approved drugs. The clinical trials team will help the patient learn about these research trials so the patient can make educated treatment decisions.

Physical Therapy

The DFCC provides physical therapy services to address the side and after-effects of treatment for head and neck cancer. We offer early and continued intervention as needed to manage head and neck swelling (lymphedema), the loss of ability to open the mouth (trismus), the loss of neck and shoulder range of motion, pain symptoms, weakness, fatigue, scar and radiation fibrosis and balance impairments. Occupational Therapy services include Home safety assessments.

Registered Dietitians

Maintaining weight and managing/minimizing side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatment is important. During head & neck radiation, it can be challenging to eat your usual diet, but with the on-going support from our registered dietitians, you can keep yourself well-nourished. Dietitians are an important part of our cancer therapy team, working with your doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to optimize your outcomes.

Speech Pathologists

Our speech therapists provide supportive rehabilitation services in the areas of swallowing, speech and voice. Patients who are preparing for radiation specifically to the head and neck are referred to a speech pathologist for consultation and instruction on how to best maintain swallow function throughout the course of radiation. A speech pathologist is available for support based on the level of each patient’s need. Upon completion of radiation, additional therapy is provided in order to maintain and improve oral and pharyngeal swallow function as well as to address any possible changes in speech or voice as a result of the patient’s treatment.

Integrative Medicine Services

The Disney Family Cancer Center is unique in offering integrative and complementary therapies under one roof to help the mind, body, and spirit of each patient, their family, and caregivers. Acupuncture and acupressure are offered to help mitigate xerostomia, improve nausea and vomiting related to treatment, and promotes well being during cancer therapy.

Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi offer exercise and relaxation in a supportive environment, helping with the transition to wellness. The Integrative Medicine Center also offers massage, healing touch, hypnotherapy, and sonic healing help promote relaxation, stress reduction, inner calm, and a sense of well-being. A psychologist is available to address the psychosocial and emotional needs of the patient and their families.

Stress reduction groups, cancer patient support groups, and caregiver support groups provide safe havens and support for both patients and their families, and a “Looking Ahead” group is specifically designed for patients completing treatment and moving into survivorship. The Integrative Medicine Center also offers a “Look Good Feel Better” service, a “Healing through Art” group, and free lectures each month on topics of concern to cancer patients and their families.

The Hench library is equipped with computers and a librarian glad to help obtain up-to-date cancer information, and an onsite Pharmacy offers both conventional medications and nutritional supplements.

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