Head and neck oncology is a branch of the medical field of oncology which is concerned specifically with cancers of the head and neck. Although the brain is usually considered a part of the head, for medical purposes, brain cancers are treated under a different branch of oncology known as neurological oncology or neuro-oncology, because cancers of the brain pose some very unique treatment challenges. People in this medical specialty have completed medical school, residency, and a fellowship in oncology.
Oncology is the branch of medicine concerned with the treatment of cancers. In head and neck oncology, people deal with cancers of the mouth, nose, throat, eye orbits, lymph nodes, sinuses, thyroid gland, and pituitary gland. Oncologists usually work as part of a medical care team which can include medical specialists such as surgeons, radiologists, and endocrinologists. Their goal is to provide complete cancer care to patients.
When a patient develops cancer, his or her general practitioner usually makes a referral to an oncologist. Although oncologists can treat many types of cancer, it is common for them to choose a particular area of interest, such as head and neck oncology. For patients, seeing an oncologist who has chosen to specialize can be highly beneficial, as specialists often have access to the latest information about treatment options and they have skills which have been highly refined over the course of years of medical practice.
The practice of head and neck oncology includes the successful diagnosis and classification of head and neck tumors, evaluation of treatment options, treatment, and follow up care to monitor healing and to check for signs of remission. Many different kinds of cancer can occur in the head and neck, and a specialist in head and neck oncology has a very broad field of knowledge as a result. These medical professionals can also participate in cancer research which is designed to improve prevention, early detection, and treatment for cancer patients.
When a patient is referred to a specialist in head and neck oncology, he or she should ask where the oncologist trained, how many years of experience the oncologist has, and what the oncologist's success rates are with the patient's type of cancer. Patients may also be interested in the oncologist's publication history, and if the oncologist has a particular interest in the cancer the patient has been diagnosed with. A reputable specialist will always provide a referral to another doctor if he or she feels that the patient would be better served by another practitioner.