Head and neck cancers

Head and neck cancers include tumours that affect your mouth, throat, nasal cavity, eyes and ears, as well as certain types of skin cancer, plus lymphoma, a blood cancer that affects your lymphatic (immune) system.

NHS Choices has more information about:

What to expect at your appointment

Your first appointment at hospital may take between 45 minutes and two hours. You may have tests and investigations on the same day or at a later date.

You usually see consultants in a joint clinic which includes specialists from our Oral and Maxillofacial department and either Dermatology or Haematology. They will ask you about your symptoms and your general health and examine you. At the end of your appointment, one of the doctors will explain your care plan and tell you if you need any more tests or investigations.

You may also meet the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) who will be your key worker during your care. They will explain your test and treatment options and support you and your family. You will also be given written information about the type of cancer you have, your treatment options, and other sources of support such as King's Macmillan Information and Support Centre.

We usually send you appointment letters for tests, investigations or treatments by post.

Tests and investigations

At your first appointment you may have one or more of the following tests or you may be asked to return at a later date to have them. They help us to find out whether you have cancer and to assess your treatment options. They include:

  • a type of biopsy called fine needle aspiration (FNT), usually at your first appointment if you have a neck lump. You may also have biopsies taken of your skin, lining of your mouth or your neck lymph nodes at King’s at a later date
  • blood tests at King’s
  • CT scan at King’s
  • endoscopy of your nose and throat at King’s, usually at your first appointment
  • MRI scan at King’s
  • ultrasound scan at King’s

Treatments

Your care and treatment depends on the type cancer you have, its size and where it is, how far it has advanced (the stage) and your overall health. The final decision about what treatment you have is yours.

After our team of specialists reviews the results of your tests and investigations, we will arrange an appointment so you can discuss your treatment options with your consultant and clinical nurse specialist.

Your care usually includes one or more or a combination of treatments. You may have these at Guy’s or at King’s, depending on the type of cancer you have.

  • King’s Oral and Maxillofacial service and dermatology department treat non-melanoma skin cancers that affect your head or neck.
  • King’s Haematology department treats lymphoma
  • Guy’s Hospital Head and Neck Cancer Unit treats all other head and neck cancers.

You may have:

  • Chemotherapy for lymphoma and non-melonoma skin cancers at King’s
  • Radiotherapy at Guy's Hospital or St Thomas' Hospital
  • Surgery for head and neck cancers at Guy’s Head and Neck Cancer Unit

Who to contact

At your first appointment, we will tell you who your key worker is, and how and when you can contact them. Your key worker is usually a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

Non-clinical support

For practical queries you can contact the Macmillan Centre at King’s on +44 (0)20 3299 5228, 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Please note the Macmillan Centre cannot help with medical queries, as there are no nurses based at the Centre.

Our team

Your care will be provided by a group of experts called a multidisciplinary team (MDT). This is a team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals specialising in treating your type of cancer. You can discuss your care with them and ask them any questions you have about your treatment. Our team includes:

Consultant Surgeons - head and neck
  • Mr Spencer Hodges
  • Mr Philip Stenhouse
Consultant Surgeons - skin cancer
  • Miss Kathy Fan
  • Mr Christoph Huppa

How we support you

We want to make sure that you get all the assistance you need to live well with – and after – cancer. There’s a wide range of support available to help you cope with cancer, including physical, emotional and practical advice for you, your family, friends and carers.