Head & Neck Cancer
The SIVUH is one of the three major centres for Head & Neck Cancer in Ireland, treating in excess of 100 patients annually. The commonest sites for Head & Neck Cancer are the larynx (voice-box); oral cavity (mouth); and oropharynx (tonsil and back of tongue). The main causes of Head & Neck Cancer are smoking; alcohol; and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
Symptoms of Head & Neck Cancer include the following: Hoarseness; difficulty swallowing; throat pain; the presence of a lump or ulcer in the mouth; or the presence of a neck lump. Any patient with any of the above symptoms lasting for more than 2 weeks should see an ENT surgeon urgently. Any patient referred to the SIVUH with any of these symptoms will be given an appointment to see a consultant within 1-2 weeks.
Patients referred to the SIVUH with any of the above symptoms will undergo a thorough examination, including palpation of the neck; examination of the oral cavity (mouth); and fibre-optic laryngoscopy. The latter is a procedure performed under local anaesthetic wherein a very narrow flexible camera is introduced through the nose. Once the back of the nose has been reached, full visualization of the entire larynx (voice-box) and pharynx (back of throat) is possible. This procedure lasts less than 30 seconds and is very well tolerated by nearly all patients. Patients with a neck lump will generally also undergo FNA. This is procedure which involves passing a very fine needle into the lump in order to draw off some cells which are sent to the laboratory for study.
Patients with a diagnosis of Head & Neck Cancer are treated by the Multidisciplinary Cancer Team (MDT) based at the SIVUH and CUH. This includes ENT Surgeons; Radiation Oncologists; Medical Oncologists; Plastic Surgeons; Pathologists; Radiologists; Speech and Language Therapists; Nutritionists; and Specialist Nurses. The SIVUH has a full-time Head & Neck Cancer Nurse Specialist who coordinates the treatment of the patient and provides a direct link for the patient and his/her family / GP to the members of the MDT.