Targeting Cancer - side effects of radiation therapy

Follow-up care

You will need regular check-ups of your mouth, throat and neck after treatment for hypopharyngeal cancer. This will include a physical exam and checking your nose and throat using a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera (nasendoscopy). You may need to have follow-up CT, MRI or PET scans but this isn’t routine for patients with hypopharyngeal cancer. It is important to keep up with follow-up appointments to make sure that if the cancer comes back it is caught early and can be treated. If you have any concerns between appointments you should contact your doctor. 

People who smoke and/or drink alcohol can reduce the risk of their cancer coming back or getting a new cancer if they quit smoking and reduce the amount of alcohol they drink. Ask your cancer care team for advice if this applies to you.

Importance of ongoing dental care

A dentist plays an important role in your head and neck cancer treatment. Side-effects can often be prevented or reduced through regular dental check-ups before, during and after cancer treatment. After your treatment, you should visit the dentist every six months for a check-up because the side effects of radiation therapy on your teeth can last for your whole life.

Mental health for people with cancer

Sometimes this is referred to as psychosocial aspects or survivorship.

Being diagnosed with cancer and having treatment can lead to extra worries or concerns for you and the people caring for you. Depending on the treatment, you may experience any of the following:

  • low mood or depression

  • anxiety

  • disfigurement

  • difficulties with eating

  • difficulties with speaking

  • changes in sexual activity.

You may have got through the diagnosis and treatment for hypopharyngeal cancer, but you may be finding it difficult to deal with some of the side effects of treatment. Speak with you doctor about any difficulties you may be experiencing. Your doctor may give you a referral to a psychologist or another healthcare professional who can help you. Speak with your family and friends too about aney concerns you may have. 

You may find it helps to join a patient support group and speak with others who are having treatment for head and neck cancer. You can also find help and advice in online self-help resources such as beyondblue.

Further information about coping with cancer is available here