Many treatments exist for head and neck cancer, and most people will need more than one type of treatment. That means you'll need a treatment team of doctors and specialists. Key members of your team may include:

  • Medical oncologist: This doctor treats cancer using drugs, commonly called chemotherapy.

  • Head and neck surgeon: This doctor treats cancer with surgery. Surgeons also help diagnose cancer by taking biopsies.

  • Radiation oncologist: This doctor treats cancer with cancer X-rays to kill the cancer cells, known as radiation therapy.

  • Otolaryngologist: This doctor is a surgeon who specializes in diseases of the ears, nose and throat. An otolaryngologist often is the doctor who does the head and neck exam that find the cancer. This doctor may also be your head and neck surgeon and play an important role in your care after surgery.

  • Reconstructive/plastic surgeon: This doctor specializes in reconstructive surgery, which may be important for repairing damage or deformity caused by cancer treatment.

Your team also may include:

  • Oncology nurses: These nurses may help give medications or chemotherapy. They may help coordinate your care and help with education and counseling about your cancer.

  • Nurse practitioners and physician assistants: These health care providers may do physical exams, give treatments, prescribe medications and help doctors manage your care.

  • Patient navigator: From the beginning of your treatment to after treatment, this team member will help guide you through the process, including advice on financial and other support services.

  • Dietitian: Maintaining a healthy diet is an important part of cancer treatment. This nutrition specialist will help you meet your dietary needs.

  • Rehabilitation therapists: These health care providers include physical therapists, occupational therapists and recreational therapists. They will help you maintain the highest possible level of daily activities and independence through your treatment and recovery.

  • Speech-language pathologist: This health care professional is a therapist that specializes in communication and swallowing disorders. A speech pathologist can help you recover your speaking and swallowing after treatment.

  • Oncologic dentist: If you will need radiation therapy, this doctor can help by removing or repairing damaged teeth before treatment. Radiation therapy can make dental problems worse.

Finally, don’t forget that an important member of your team is you. Treatment works best when you take an active role. Learn as much as you can about your cancer and all treatment options.