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New Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Center Gives Patients Coordinated, Comprehensive and Convenient Care

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Head and neck cancers are challenging to diagnose and treat. Determining the location and extent of each patient’s cancer can be difficult, and greatly affects the approach to treatment. Preservation of day-to-day abilities such as eating and speaking as well as physical appearance must also be factored into the course of care. To accomplish this best, head and neck cancers must be treated by a team of specialists — head and neck surgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, plastic and reconstructive surgeons, dentists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and speech and swallowing therapists — who collaborate to develop the best plan and improve the patient’s quality of life.

The Head and Neck Cancer Center, located in the Naymark Hearing and Speech Building on Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center’s campus in New Hyde Park, gives patients one convenient place for evaluation and treatment by a team of dedicated specialists. After initial screening, patients return within a week for a highly coordinated evaluation by all specialists involved in their care.

“In other settings, developing a course of treatment can often drag out over several weeks because it takes that long for patients to see each specialist involved in their care individually,” said Douglas Frank, MD, the hospital’s chief of head and neck surgery, Department of Otolaryngology, and codirector of the center. “In our center, patients see a head and neck surgeon, a radiation oncologist and possibly a medical oncologist all in the same location. In most cases, a speech pathologist performs a swallowing evaluation. After these examinations are completed, the team comes to a consensus on the stage of the cancer and tumor volume, and works out a tentative treatment plan — all in one visit. We are truly coordinating patients’ care at the time of examination. This reduces treatment delays — ultimately enhancing patient safety.”

William Nardella of Islip Terrace was diagnosed with tongue cancer in October 2008. The following January, Dr. Frank removed one-third of Mr. Nardella’s tongue to eradicate the cancerous tumor, as well as Mr. Nardella’s wisdom teeth, and then reconstructed his tongue using an artery and vein taken from Mr. Nardella’s left arm during a 12-hour surgery at LIJ Medical Center. After recovery from surgery, Mr. Nardella received courses of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

“I was very surprised by the complexity of my treatment and the number of physicians who were involved in my care,” said Mr. Nardella, who completed his treatment nearly a year ago. “But now the rest is history. I am able to eat, my speech has improved through speech therapy and I have full use of my arm. Everything is great.”

“The Center offers patients one of the most cohesive and sophisticated treatment experiences for head and neck cancer in the country,” said David Schwartz, MD, vice chairman of radiation medicine at North Shore-LIJ Health System, and codirector of the center. “Patients facing the stress and anxiety of their diagnosis can meet with experts and quickly receive a plan for their treatment from their team. Patients will know right away if they are eligible for one or more of our clinical trials or specialized techniques. The idea is to make the process understandable and reassuring, and to make treatment as individualized and effective as possible.”

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+The new Center for Head and Neck Cancer gives patients one convenient place for evaluation and treatment by a team of specialists dedicated to treating head and neck cancer.

To make an appointment, please call (866) 690-2008.

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