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Ask an Oncology Expert with Dr. Farzad Masroor

April 19, 2021
Farzad Masroor, MD, head and neck surgeon at GBMC, makes it a point to listen intently to his patients, truly hearing their priorities and life stories. Then, with their individual goals in mind, he discusses their cases in depth with the specialists throughout the Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head and Neck Center to create personalized treatment plans. He treats all head and neck cancers, with expertise in thyroid surgery, head and neck surgical oncology, and complex reconstructive surgeries. In his interactive discussion with Mary Beth Marsden, Dr. Masroor explained his specialty, the symptoms of head and neck cancer, and how the diagnosis affects patients’ lives.

“The area of the head and neck is quite broad,” he said. “It covers problems going from the skull base, which is just below the brain, all the way down to the clavicle.” The eyes and brain have their own specialties and are not included in the work of a head and neck surgeon. Dr. Masroor sees many different kinds of cancers in his practice, ranging from skin cancer, thyroid cancer, and salivary gland cancer to cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract, which include the mouth, throat, voice box, and upper esophagus.

Many of Dr. Masroor’s patients are referred by a dentist or ENT, but he noted that an increasing number of patients are self-referring when they become concerned about their symptoms. He encouraged patients to talk with their doctor if they feel something is wrong, even if it may not seem significant. He cited abnormal skin changes, pain or feeling like something is stuck in the throat, voice changes, and swallowing challenges as particular symptoms of concern. Although these symptoms don’t definitively point to cancer, they should be addressed by a healthcare professional.

“Head and neck is an intersection of many different specialties,” he explained. “The Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head and Neck Center comprises more than just surgeons. We also have speech language pathologists, dietitians, social workers, and more. My practice exists within this team, and it’s all built to give the best care to the head and neck patient.”

These additional specialties are especially helpful for those who experience significant life changes after treatment. For some patients, basic functions like talking and eating become difficult, and therapy is needed to help them regain their quality of life. “The first goal of our treatment is always to remove the patient’s cancer,” Dr. Masroor expressed. “Our secondary goal is to maintain form and function for the patient.”

The discussion ended with Dr. Masroor answering viewer questions that were submitted beforehand and during the conversation. He covered topics such as the side effects of specific treatments and how surgery techniques have advanced in recent years.
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