What you need to know

It is recommended that you:

  • See a specialist who is a member of a multidisciplinary team. You can ask your GP to refer you.
  • All specialists listed on Canrefer are members of a multidisciplinary team.

What is head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancer is cancer that occurs in any part of the head or neck. This can include the mouth, tongue, gums, tonsils, pharynx, larynx, nasal cavity or sinuses. Head and neck cancers start when cells become abnormal. These cells divide and grow to form a cancer. A head and neck cancer is named after the part of the head or neck where it starts. For example, laryngeal cancer starts in the larynx.

Graphic of the human body

Who do I see for diagnosis and treatment of my head and neck cancer?

If your GP suspects you have head and neck cancer, they will refer you to a specialist.

The specialist should:

  • Have experience in treating head and neck cancer
  • Be an active member of a multidisciplinary team.

All the specialists listed on Canrefer are members of a multidisciplinary team.

Why are multidisciplinary teams important?

A multidisciplinary team is a team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Team members meet regularly to discuss their patients. They plan treatment for new cancer patients and review treatment for existing patients.

Multidisciplinary teams are important. Team members work together to decide the best treatments for patients.

You can ask your GP to refer you to a specialist who is part of a multidisciplinary team. Talk to your GP about this.

All specialists on Canrefer are members of a multidisciplinary team.

What tests do I need?

You may have some of the tests listed below to diagnose a head and neck cancer. The most common tests are:

  • Physical examination
  • Imaging - X-ray, CT scan, PET scan and/or MRI scan
  • Blood tests
  • Endoscopy
  • Biopsy

What treatment will I have?

Treatment for a head and neck cancer may include one or all types of these cancer treatments:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • targeted therapy
  • radiotherapy

Where will I have treatment?

Treatment for your head and neck cancer may be specialised and complex and you may need to travel to have parts of your treatment. Your Local Health District will have an arrangement in place for this.

You may be able to have parts of your treatment closer to home. Please discuss this with your treating specialist.

Travel assistance for rural patients

If you live in a rural area and need help to travel for your treatment visit NSW Government IPTAAS for more information.

How common is head and neck cancer in NSW?

Head and neck cancer was diagnosed in:

  • 1118
    People in NSW in 2012
  • 1156
    People in NSW in 2011
  • 1103
    People in NSW in 2010

Data source: Annual NSW cancer incidence and mortality dataset, 2012 (sourced from the NSW Cancer Registry)

Cancer information and support

Speak to a specialist health professional about anything to do with cancer.

Phone 13 11 20.

Cancer Council NSW
Questions for your specialist

Find out some key questions to ask your specialist at your first appointment.

Questions you can ask
Booklet about head and neck cancer

Understanding Head and Neck Cancers is a booklet for people with cancer, their families and friends. 

Cancer Council NSW