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Head and neck cancer (tumours developing in the tissues and organs of the head and neck) includes cancers of the nasal cavity and sinuses, the mouth, tonsils, base of tongue, voice box and upper oesophagus. The Head and Neck cancer team also treats cancers of the thyroid and non-melanoma skin cancer of the head and neck.

The head and neck cancer team includes specialist surgeons, clinical nurse specialists, Speech and Language therapists, dieticians, medical and clinical oncologists, radiologists and pathologists.

Do I need any tests to confirm diagnosis?

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust offers a comprehensive diagnostic service including the full range of specialist endoscopic, radiological, and pathology services.  A combination of the following tests may be used to determine a diagnosis of cancer during, or following clinic visits

  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) of head and neck lumps
  • Ultrasound scan
  • Biopsy from the throat under a local or general anaesthetic
  • Barium Swallow
  • CT Scan
  • MRI Scan
  • PET-CT Scan
What treatment are available?

Head and neck cancers are usually treated with surgery, radiotherapy, with or without chemotherapy (or a combination of these treatments). The type of surgery needed and the particular combination of surgery, plus of minus radiotherapy, will depend on the type and complexity of head and neck cancer.

The head and neck surgical team at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest in the United Kingdom, and performs the full complement of surgical procedures for head and neck cancer, within the South West London area, including minimally invasive robotic and laser surgery, as well as microvascular free flap reconstruction. St George’s Hospital  is also the regional centre for all skull-base surgery relating to cancer, and benefits from having the regional neurosurgical unit on site.  We are a joint cancer centre with the Royal Marsden Hospital where the radiotherapy, radioactive iodine, and chemotherapy treatments are provided.

Support and Rehabilitation

Patients and their carers have access to:

  • Our specialist head and neck nursing staff on Florence Nightingale ward
  • A clinical nurse specialist for information and support throughout the cancer pathway.
  • Highly specialist speech and language therapists and Dieticians providing pre and post therapy, and on-going rehabilitation in the hospital and an outreach service closer to home.
  • Our physiotherapy team offer rehabilitation on the ward and referral on if ongoing therapy is required.
  • Restorative Dental service for dental maintenance and rehabilitation following surgery and radiotherapy. It also hosts the regional maxillofacial laboratory, providing expertise in prosthetic rehabilitation.
  • Access to our Macmillan cancer psychological team (CaPS)
  • Access to Macmillan information and financial advice
  • Access to complementary therapy on the ward
  • Tracheostomy clinic
What is Personalised Cancer Care?

 Personalised Cancer Care means your team will support you to take an active role in your cancer care by giving choices and control based on what matters most.

Together with your key workers’ team, like your Clinical Nurse Specialist and Macmillan Support worker, we will aim to help you access the care and support that meets your individual needs from the moment you receive your cancer diagnosis so that you can live as full, healthy and active a life as possible.

You will be invited to complete a Holistic Needs Assessment (HNA) to identify any concerns you may have when you have been diagnosed with cancer. These concerns may be physical, emotional, practical, financial and spiritual.

You will answer a simple set of questions or fill in a checklist about all areas of your life. It is to find out about the concerns you may have. You are often asked to rate how important these concerns are to you. It could help you decide what to discuss first during the assessment.

Once you have completed the assessment, your Clinical Nurse Specialist will discuss your needs, maybe face-to-face in a clinic or over the phone. During the discussion, you and your Clinical Nurse Specialist will agree on the best ways to manage your needs and concerns. They will write down what you have decided in a document called a care plan.  They may write it during the discussion. Or they may make notes and send them to you afterwards. Your care plan will record the following:

  • The main concerns you talked about
  • Suggestions and actions to help you manage your concerns
  • Services that may be able to support you, and any referrals that are made
  • What is already being done to help – for example, the services you are already using
  • Information about who to contact if you need more help
  • The details of other health or social care professionals with whom you have agreed to share the information.

You may not wish to complete the holistic needs assessment at this time. The care you receive will not be affected in any way, and we will be happy to discuss this again in the future

 Health and wellbeing information and support also include:

  • Access to the Macmillan Information & Support Centre to find out what support is available in the community, e.g., practical, financial, and how to access it
  • Help with understanding cancer and its treatment and how to manage its impact through videos and workshops run by healthcare professionals at St George’s and in the community.
  • Attend wellbeing activities which are great opportunities for you and your carers to get together with others affected by cancer