Difficulties in the surgical management of head and neck cancer patient

Open access

Abstract

Malignancies of the upper aerodigestive tract are high morbidity bearing and life-threatening diseases, which require thorough care from diagnostic suspicion and confirmation to surgical and/or oncologic treatment and rehabilitation. Difficulties in managing head and neck cancers arise from delays in diagnosis and treatment caused by either patient-related factors or healthcare system-related factors. Tumor origin and stage determine whether surgical excision is feasible, the approach required for safe excision, the extent of functional and aesthetic sacrifice required to attain oncologic safety and the need for reconstructive surgery. A thorough and systematic preoperative risk versus benefits assessment to select potential surgical candidates and give realistic outcomes is important from both a medical and a legal point of view. Because tumors in the head and neck region frequently involve more than one system and sensory organ, potential loss of function from either the disease course, surgical or nonsurgical treatment should be taken into account form a quality of life perspective. Effective management of head and neck cancer patients requires the cooperation and combined effort of a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, physicians and other workers over a long period of time which, in the absence of a specialised head and neck cancer centre and guidelines, can lead to increased morbidity and mortality, and patient dissatisfaction.

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