- What is head and neck cancer?  
- How does cancer arise?
- What causes head and neck cancer?  
- Can cancer of the head and neck be cured?  
- Symptoms of head and neck cancer  
- Referral to a specialist
- Diagnosis of head and neck cancer  
- Stage and grade of cancer  
- Treatment for head and neck cancer  
- Follow-up after treatment  
- Clinical trials


Referral to a specialist

When deciding whether to refer you to a specialist, your family doctor will follow guidelines published by the healthcare authorities. Symptoms that may indicate to your doctor that you should be referred to a specialist include:

  • Hoarse voice for more than 6 weeks
  • Mouth ulcer for more than 3 weeks
  • Swelling in the mouth for more than 3 weeks
  • Red or white patches inside the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing for more than 3 weeks
  • Nose blocked on one side, particularly if it is producing pus
  • Loose tooth, without any gum disease
  • Lump in the neck for more than 3 weeks
  • Weakness in any of the muscles in the face, tongue or throat
  • Lump in the eye socket.

Remember that these symptoms may not be caused by cancer. If your doctor arranges an urgent appointment with a specialist, it does not mean that you have cancer, it means that your doctor believes that your symptoms need urgent investigation. The doctor will send you to see either an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.

If you have already had treatment for cancer of the head and neck, your doctor will refer you back to the specialist if you have any worrying symptoms that suggest that the cancer might have come back.