Head and neck cancer information for patients

Diagnosing and treating cancers of the head and neck 

Cancer

Symptoms

If your GP thinks your symptoms may be due to head and neck cancer, you will be given an appointment to see one of our specialists within two weeks.

It is important to remember that these symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer. However, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should see your GP who may refer you for further investigation.

  • Most common symptoms

    • a lump, ulcer or sore that does not heal within a few weeks
    • pain or difficulty with speaking, chewing or swallowing
    • a persistent sore throat and/or earache on one side
    • numbness affecting any part of the mouth, lips or tongue
    • nosebleeds or a constantly blocked nose
    • pain in the face or upper jaw
    • a lump or swelling in the neck
    • persistent red or white patches in the mouth
    • an unexplained loose tooth.

Your appointment

The head and neck cancer clinic is held daily in the ear, nose and throat (ENT) department.

At your first appointment you may need to have a biopsy, which is a minor procedure that can be done in a day or with a short hospital stay. We may also give you an appointment to have a scan.

  • If you need treatment

    If you are diagnosed with a head or neck cancer, we will usually treat it with surgery or radiotherapy or a combination of surgery and radiotherapy. Sometimes we may give you chemotherapy.

    If you need surgery, we will aim to give you a date two-three weeks after seeing your consultant. Surgery is carried out in the head and neck theatres at Guy's.

    Before your operation you will be given an appointment for a pre-assessment clinic. Here you will be seen by a number of specialist staff including speech therapists if appropriate.

    We have a dedicated head and neck ward at Guy's. During your stay in hospital following surgery you may need rehabilitation which is provided by nurses, speech therapists and dietitians.