Cancer of the head and neck arises from the linings of the nose, sinuses, mouth and throat. The cancer may present as a lump or ulcer, or the patient may have noticed bleeding.
Diagnosis involves a biopsy, an examination of the area with a fine internal camera (endoscopy), and scans to determine the extent of the cancer.
Our multi-disciplinary team decides on a personalised plan for the patient, often consisting of surgery followed by radiotherapy, or radiotherapy alone.
Chemotherapy may also be used to reduce the tumour prior to radiotherapy and may also be given with the radiotherapy. Targeted therapies such as cetuximab (Erbitux™) are also available.
These cancers are particularly sensitive to radiation, so radiotherapy often has a major role to play in treatment. However as these tumours grow very close to important structures in the head and neck, millimetre-accuracy is required and an immobilisation shell or mask is made for the patient.
Following a planning CT scan, intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) is used to ensure that critical areas are avoided.
Head and neck radiotherapy schedules can last up to seven weeks. Our comprehensive team of specialist nurses, speech and language therapists, and dieticians will support patients through treatment.