Good nutrition is essential from the outset to aid recovery following all types of head and neck cancer treatment. Our team provides assistance and advice concerning eating and drinking, recommending prescribed supplements and tube feeding.
Having treatment for head and neck cancer is very likely to impact upon your ability to eat and drink. This can lead to impaired wound healing, increased length of hospital stay, poor quality of life and can also result in interruptions to treatment. Side effects of treatments can include swallowing difficulties, dry mouth, nausea and a reduced appetite meaning eating and drinking enough can be challenging at times
The Head and Neck Dietitians see patients undergoing all types of treatment for head and neck cancer including radiotherapy, chemotherapy and/or surgery. They are there to support you throughout your treatment journey and for as long as is needed after treatment is completed.
The Head and Neck Dietitians are here to:
- Make an assessment of your individual nutritional needs
- Advise on how your planned treatment may affect your ability to eat and drink
- Discuss nutritional goals and agree on a suitable plan with you to help you meet them
- Provide practical dietary advice and written information to help you to implement changes at home
Contact the team: 020 3447 9755
Due to the effects of disease or treatment, you may not always able to meet your nutritional needs through eating and drinking alone. You may require a feeding tube. If this is recommended as part of your treatment plan, the dietitians will provide full counselling on why this is needed and what is entailed.
The most commonly used feeding tubes are nasogastric tubes which are inserted via the nostril and is usually used if alternative feeding is needed for days to short weeks. A gastrostomy feeding tube is inserted directly into the stomach and may be recommended if you require alternative feeding for a longer period.
If a gastrostomy is needed, the dietitian works with the gastroenterology team and ward to organise placement of the tubes and a short admission to the hospital for the procedure. Usually only an overnight stay required. The Head and Neck Dietitians will provide dietetic support for you for as long as the tube remains in place and will ensure that community based teams such as the GP, district nurses and community dietitians are involved.
In addition to working directly with patients the Head and Neck Dietitians also train and educate other members of the multi-disciplinary team on aspects of nutrition. This ranges from induction sessions for new members of staff to providing updates on changes in practice to existing staff.
The Head and Neck Dietitians are involved in research and audit and present regularly at National and International Conferences and study days. They regularly teach on higher education degrees including the MSc Clinical Nutrition degrees at University College London, and also supervise several BSc and MSc nutrition and dietetic students opting to undertake their final year dissertation projects within the department. Several of our students have successfully gone on to present their work at research conferences.
Several of the Head and Neck Dietitians have completed further study whilst working at UCLH, including Masters degrees/modules focussing on oncological treatments/care and non-medical prescribing courses.