Greater Living
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GBMC Greater Living discusses Head & Neck Cancer Survivorship Resources

May 14, 2018
Where patients become family

Forty years ago, when Milton J. Dance was diagnosed with head and neck cancer, there was no team centered on care for patients with this disease. Mr. Dance wanted to change that and endowed what is now known as the Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head and Neck Center at GBMC. The center provides people with all types of head and neck cancer with a coordinated team approach to treating the disease, as well as support for survivors and their families. Barbara Pisano Messing, MA, CCC-SLP, BCS-S, director of the center, talked with Mary Beth Marsden and Don Scott about the benefits of this team approach, the care pathway the center has developed, and what people can do to lower the risk of developing these cancers.

“We take a coordinated team approach to caring for our patients,” she explained. “Our team not only includes medical, radiation, and surgical oncologists, but also speech-language pathologists, otolaryngology nurse specialists, oncology registered dieticians, oncology social workers, oral pathologists, and maxillofacial prosthodontists—all the care and support our patients need as they move through diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. We work to minimize the number of appointments our patients have so they see multiple members of the team during each visit to make receiving care more convenient.”

Barbara shared tips on what people can do to lower their risk of head and neck cancer, including getting children vaccinated against the HPV virus, one of the main drivers of the increase in these types of cancer, as well as not smoking or chewing tobacco and avoiding alcohol. “If something in your mouth or neck feels or looks irregular, then get it evaluated,” she advised. “Early detection and not using tobacco or alcohol can improve your outcome if you are diagnosed with many head and neck cancers.

While the team usually follows patients for five years after their treatment ends to watch for any signs that the cancer has returned, Barbara said, “We say we never discharge our patients. They all become part of our family.”

Watch the entire series:

Part 1 — Dr. Robert Donegan, MD, Medical Oncology

Part 2 — Brandon Costantino, Oncology Support Services at GBMC

Part 3 — Barbara Pisano Messing, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-S, The Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head & Neck Center, Head & Neck Surgery, and the Johns Hopkins Voice Center located at GBMC

Part 4 — Beth Nardone, Co-Chair of the Oncology Patient & Family Advisory Council and Cancer Survivor
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