Post Treatment Services for Head & Neck Cancer

Head & neck cancer treatment often includes reconstructive surgery to improve quality of life. Dr. Arshad explains our collaborative approach.

Medical & Supportive Services

Roswell Park also offers a full menu of medical and supportive services that are often needed by patients with head & neck cancer.

These services are available in one location, providing greater convenience for you and making it easier for everyone on your team to work together closely on your treatment plan.

Services may include:

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery

Some head & neck surgeries are minor, and their treatment involves few, if any, long-term side effects. Other cases require deep or extensive surgery, which can affect your appearance and/or such functions as your ability to speak and swallow. Our Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery team uses the most advanced techniques to repair these effects of treatment.

Among other services, our plastic surgeons offer:

  • Surgical repair of head & neck defects, from simple to complex. The team can transplant skin, bone, or nerves from other parts of the body to fill in gaps or replace structures that were removed during surgery. They can use autologous fat transfer to smooth out areas of the head & neck, removing fat from one location (the abdomen, for example) and using it to shape areas of the head & neck where surgery created depressions or cavities. In many cases, plastic surgery can eliminate the need for prosthetics.
  • Facial reanimation can restore movement and improve appearance after injury or illness causes paralysis, through the transfer of muscle and nerves from other parts of the body.
  • Reconstruction of the jaw and/or tongue can enable patients to eat and swallow after treatment for cancer of the oral cavity.
  • Lymph node transplants can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of lymphedema, a condition that can occur in head & neck patients as a result of radiation treatments or when lymph nodes are removed during surgery. Lymphedema occurs when lymph fluid backs up in tissues, causing swelling, stiffness, and a tight sensation.

The Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery team will work closely with your Head & Neck surgeon to create a plan that will provide the most effective cancer treatment while protecting your quality of life.

Dental Clinic/Maxillofacial Prosthetics

Patients with head & neck cancer need specialized dental care from the time of diagnosis, and that care should continue on a regular basis throughout your lifetime, even after treatment is complete. Our Dental team will monitor your oral health to prevent infection and catch any suspicious new lesions (abnormal areas) that may develop. They can also help if you experience dental pain, jaw stiffness, or difficulty opening and closing your mouth.

In cases where treatment results in damage to or loss of teeth or other structures of the head & neck, patients may need dental implants or prosthetics to replace the affected areas. Maxillofacial prosthetics and dental services are provided at Roswell Park to help restore normal appearance and function.

Speech-Language Pathology (Communication and Swallowing)

RPCI's Speech-Language Pathology team diagnoses and treats problems related to communication, swallowing, and airway-management issues that patients may experience as a result of head & neck cancer or its treatment. Videofluoroscopic Swallowing Studies (VFSS) and laryngeal endoscopy are among the procedures used to determine a patient’s ability to eat safely by mouth. The team also provides pre-surgery and pre-radiation counseling to help patients prepare for their treatment and recovery.