Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS HEAD & NECK CANCER?
Head and neck cancers are malignant growths that involve structures in the head and neck area. Cancers can form in the tongue, upper and lower jaw bones, lips, upper throat (oropharynx), voice box (larynx), and swallowing tube (hypopharynx and esophagus). Often these cancers care related to smoking, chewing tobacco, and alcohol use. However one of that fastest growing groups of patients with upper throat (oropharynx) cancers are otherwise healthy people with no major tobacco or alcohol use history. Current theories show that the human papilloma virus (HPV) can cause mutations that lead to cancers in these areas.
Head and neck cancers often present with painful masses or lumps in the mouth, throat, or neck. Some people who have trouble swallowing or pain on swallowing may have a cancer in their head and neck region. If you have any of these symptoms tell your family doctor. They will examine your mouth, upper throat and neck. If there are any concerns they should then refer you on to a Head & Neck Surgeon for a detailed examination and further testing. If you do have a Head & Neck Cancer surgery is often part of your treatment. If you require surgery for a Head & Neck Cancer it is important that you are treated by an experienced surgery team who work in a health care facility / hospital where the latest advanced techniques are being used.
WHAT IS THYROID CANCER?
Thyroid cancer is a malignant (cancer) growth involving the tissues of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland sits in the base of the neck and has two lobes (right and left). Cancers can arise in any growth within the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate important functions in your body. It is important to be aware of thyroid diseases and to protect your thyroid health.
Thyroid cancer is currently on the rise in North America for reasons that are not clear at the current time. Thyroid cancers often present as neck nodules or lumps. Sometimes sudden onset of voice changes or trouble swallowing are also related to thyroid cancer. People with a family history of thyroid cancer or disease, known thyroid disease or goiter are at a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer. If you have a concern that you might have a thyroid cancer please tell your family doctor. They will examine your head and neck, feel for lumps and potentially refer you on for an ultrasound of the neck. Your doctor may request that you have a needle biopsy of a thyroid lump (tissue sampling) to make sure that a thyroid nodule or lump is not a cancer. If you are found to have a thyroid cancer, surgery is almost always part of your treatment. If you require thyroid surgery it is important that your surgery is performed by a surgeon experienced in this type of surgery and who does an adequate number of these procedures per year.
WHAT IS A HEAD & NECK SURGEON?
A Head & Neck Surgeon is a physician who following medical school has completed a 5 year residency (surgical training program) in Otolaryngollgy – Head & Neck Surgery, Plastic Surgery or General Surgery followed by at least a year of extra dedicated training in Head & Neck Cancer surgery.
WHAT TYPES OF SURGERIES DO HEAD & NECK SURGEONS PErFORM?
As the leader of a surgical team that includes anaesthetists, residents, nurses, and other health professionals, the Head & Neck surgeons perform a wide variety of surgeries from removing of cancer and non cancerous growths from the head & neck region. These surgeons are skilled in removing growths of the tongue, jaw bones, upper throat, voice box, neck, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, and salivary (spit) glands. Some head & neck surgeons who have gained extra training in reconstructive head & neck surgery are able to rebuild defects in the tongue, jaw bones, upper throat, voice box and neck with tissue from the arms, legs, hip and/or back to restore speaking and swallowing function and form to these areas after surgery.
WHAT TYPES OF SURGERIES DO THE HEAD & NECK SURGEONS INVOLVED IN THE HEAD & NECK CLINIC PERFORM?
Dr. Seikaly, Dr. O’Connell and Dr. Harris have completed 5 year dedicated surgical training programs in Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery each followed by a dedicated 1 or 2 years of training in advanced Head & Neck Cancer and Reconstructive Surgery. The surgical team at the Head & Neck Clinic are able to provide and perform all types of Head & Neck surgery from removing cancer and non-cancer growths (tumours) from the mouth, tongue, jaw bones, upper throat, voice box, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, salivary (spit) glands to delicate and advanced reconstructive surgery to rebuild these areas altered by tumour removal surgery.
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION ON HEAD & NECK CANCER AS WELL AS THYROID CANCER?
Head & Neck Cancers:
Head & Neck Cancers
DO THE MEDICAL AND SURGICAL SERVICES PROVIDED BY THE HEAD & NECK CLINIC HAVE ANY INCREASED COST TO THE PATIENT?
No, all services provided by the Head & Neck Clinic are covered by Alberta Health & Wellness. Any patient with an up to date Alberta Health Care number or active provincial / territorial health care plan for any Canadian citizen or resident have full access to all services provided by the head & neck clinic at no added cost.
HOW DO I GET REFERRED TO THE HEAD & NECK CLINIC?
How do I get referred to the Head & Neck Clinic? – If you have a concern that you may be suffereing from a Head & Neck Cancer or other disorder please see your Primary Care or Family Care physician for an initial assessment. If your Primary Care Physician (Family Doctor) identifies an issue or concern they can simply send a completed referral request form to the head & neck clinic via fax or email. Any specialist or licensed physician or dentist in Alberta can refer to the Head and Neck Clinic.
Please note: The information provided above is general information only and that anyone with a concern about specific symptoms should see their family physician promptly.