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What to Expect
When you are diagnosed with cancer in the head or neck area, you will want to know what happens next. At the Henry Ford Cancer Institute (HFCI), our head and neck cancer team is here for you every step of the way – through diagnosis, treatment and beyond.
We offer the most advanced, effective treatments available, including minimally invasive surgery that preserves the delicate region of the head and neck. Read our patient stories to learn about how patients have survived and thrived after treatment at Henry Ford.
What can Henry Ford Head and Neck Cancer Clinic offer me?
To offer the best care for your individual needs, we take a team approach to cancer treatment at Henry Ford. At our center, you will find:
- Collaborative team of specialists
- Individualized treatment for every patient: About 15 physicians will study your case and agree on the best treatment to recommend for your care at our weekly tumor board meeting. The tumor board is an integrated group of physicians and other experts who work together to design your treatment plan.
- We support you and your family from diagnosis through survivorship: We provide everything you and your family need to manage the challenges of living with cancer, including:
- Customized treatment in convenient locations across Detroit
- Access to research and clinical trials, which give you a broader range of options, including brand-new treatments not yet available as a standard of care.
- Help for every phase of your treatment, including support groups and therapies to help you manage symptoms.
What should I expect from my first appointment?
At your first appointment, called the Head and Neck Cancer Clinic, you will meet your entire care team. In this collaborative setting, we will explain your diagnosis and treatment plan and answer your questions.
We encourage you to bring a family member, friend or another caregiver with you to this appointment. At the clinic appointment, you will:
- Meet your nurse navigator. Your nurse navigator will be your point of contact throughout your treatment. This caring professional is always available to help schedule appointments and answer any questions you and your family may have.
- Meet with a team of physicians, usually including a medical oncologist (cancer specialist), radiation oncologist and surgeon who may be involved in your care.
- Learn about the cancer’s stage
- Learn about the treatment options we recommend
- Understand what to expect before, during and after treatment
- Schedule any additional needed tests or appointments
- Be connected to others who understand what you’re going through after a cancer diagnosis. We can put you in touch with support groups, or with our patient advisory council.
Before we begin your treatment, we will evaluate you thoroughly at our pre-treatment clinic. This clinic brings together several specialists to understand your current condition and your needs through the treatment process.
After this visit, we will be able to guide you to all of the right care for your cancer, to help you get back to your normal lifestyle. The visit includes:
- Quality of life survey: We will ask you a series of questions to understand how you are feeling, physically and emotionally, about your quality of your life as you embark on cancer treatment.
- Swallowing test: We evaluate swallowing for all patients being treated for throat or mouth cancer. This test helps us to recommend the right therapy throughout your treatment to help you regain swallowing and speech ability, quickly and fully.
- Nutrition strategies: Radiation and surgery treatment can create problems such as dry mouth and scar tissue. Our nutritionist will discuss strategies to help you keep up your weight and hydration during treatment, with a focus on foods that you like.
- Support and resources: Our dedicated head and neck cancer psychologist can help you deal with the upset of a cancer diagnosis, and provide support for caregivers.
- Other evaluations: Depending on your individual needs, you may also see an audiologist (a health care professional specially trained in diagnosing hearing problems) or dentist during this clinic visit. Your nurse navigator will help schedule these appointments.
The Henry Ford head and neck cancer team cares about you, before, during and after treatment. Thanks to input from our patient advisory council, we have developed a post-treatment clinic to provide formal evaluation after you finish your treatment.
About a month after treatment, you will meet with our team for a comprehensive follow-up visit. Depending on your individual needs, this appointment may include:
- Transition to survivorship: After treatment, we help patients become healthier and build stronger immune systems with a series of workshops for survivors. During these workshops, you will hear from nutritionists, social workers, sleep specialists and other experts, helping you transition to life after cancer
- Counseling and swallowing help: As patients heal, they sometimes realize they need support with swallowing and speech, or with handling the emotional ups and downs of cancer treatment. Our speech-language pathologist, nutritionist and psychologist remain available to you after your treatment is complete.
- Ongoing access to clinical trials: We will discuss if additional opportunities are available for research and clinical trials. If you need additional treatment, clinical trials can give you access to new medications and treatment methods before they are available to the general public.