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Living Beyond Head and Neck Cancer

Survivors of head and neck cancer often look and feel their best when quality of life is emphasized from the first stages of treatment. Recent advances in head and neck cancer surgery and reconstruction make it possible to preserve or restore appearance and function for many people with tumors in sensitive areas of the head and neck. Advances in radiation therapy and drug therapy allow others to avoid the side effects of these treatments.

People with head and neck cancer may stay in the hospital for treatment for only a short time. Rehabilitation, follow-up care, and post-treatment support are especially important for head and neck cancer survivors.

Rehabilitation and Exercise

Speech and swallowing therapists are key members of the head and neck cancer rehabilitation team. We evaluate your needs during your treatment or hospital stay and design a personalized treatment to help you with any problems related to speech, pronunciation, or swallowing.

Physical and occupational therapists are available to address problems such as posture, range of motion, or muscle weakness in the shoulders or neck.

Our experts work closely with you, your family, and the rest of your care team for as long as you need us.

Supportive Care and Pain Management

If you’re in pain — whether it’s during your treatments or even months after they’re over — you don’t have to continue to suffer. Our experts can help.

Our specialists in palliative care and pain management can give you solutions for both acute physical pain, which comes on suddenly, as well as chronic pain, which can linger.

Our palliative care specialists are trained to ease the side effects of cancer treatment and work with our pain experts to build a plan that makes sense for you and your needs, both during your treatment and after it. Our dedicated outpatient programs are here for you and your caregivers. We can work with your doctor and local pharmacist to keep you as comfortable as possible.

Learn more about how we can relieve your pain.

Counseling and Support

Sometimes you and your loved ones just need someone to talk to, someone who’s trained to help you make sense of your experience before, during, and after treatment for cancer.

Our Counseling Center offers both individual and group counseling sessions to help you and your family cope with the disease. These sessions can be a healthy, productive way to work through the stress and anxiety that are sometimes a part of treatment and recovery.

We also have a program through which survivors who are doing well now are available to meet with you if you’re still in treatment. We can often arrange for you to be visited by someone who has a diagnosis similar to yours. If you’re interested in this program, let us know.

Learn more about how we can support your emotional well-being.

Older Patients

Cancer and its treatment are a challenge for anyone, regardless of age. But if you’re over 65, you may face unique issues that only affect people in your age group. We’re committed to providing people of all ages with the treatment, facilities, and support they need.

Your care team will include healthcare professionals who have the specialized training and experience to effectively treat older patients. Every aspect of your care — diagnosis, treatment, recovery, support — will be tailored to meet your particular needs.

Learn more about how we care for older patients.

Integrative Medicine

Medical treatments — things like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery — are often the best way to treat cancer. Their whole purpose is to get you healthy again. But at MSK, we know that complementary services can help soothe and heal not only your body but also your mind and spirit.

Our Integrative Medicine Service can be a valuable part of your formal treatment plan. Programs we offer include massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, meditation, visualization, music therapy, and nutritional counseling. Formal classes include yoga, Tai Chi, and chair aerobics.

Learn more about the variety of complementary services we offer.

Nutrition

Many people with head and neck cancer have questions about diet and nutrition. Our food and nutrition team is trained in helping you understand and cope with a variety of conditions relating to cancer treatment.

Our expert dietitians provide medical nutrition therapy that can help you manage problems with swallowing, changes in taste or your weight, and other issues. We work closely with your care team to customize a dietary plan that fits your own specific needs.

Learn more about our nutrition services for patients and survivors.

Dermatology

We understand that the side effects of cancer treatment that affect your physical appearance can be as upsetting and uncomfortable as any other symptoms you may have. Our dermatology experts can help you manage conditions that affect the health and appearance of your skin and, in some instances, even help prevent them from developing in the first place.

Learn more about how we can help you keep your skin healthy.

Tobacco Treatment

Beyond the many other health issues it causes, smoking is a serious risk factor for many types of cancer. It can also make cancer treatments less effective. If you smoke, we want to help you stop — now — to reduce your risk of developing a second cancer or impairing your treatment.

The Tobacco Treatment Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering is ready to help if you’re ready to quit. Giving up tobacco is hard. And quitting while in treatment presents a unique challenge. But it’s a challenge you can overcome, and we can help you do it. We’ll also help family members who want to quit with you.

Learn more about how we can help you quit using tobacco, for good.