What Training Do Head and Neck Doctors Receive?
Otolaryngologists complete up to 15 years of college and post-graduate training, including medical school. All otolaryngologist must be certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology.
In order to receive a specialty in head and neck surgery, an otolaryngologist must complete a five-year residency program in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. At least nine months of this program will be spent in basic surgical training. Experience as chief within the final year is recommended.
What Disorders Does an ENT Head and Neck Specialist Treat?
Head and neck specialists are primarily responsible for performing surgery to treat different types of head and neck cancers. These cancers may be located in the nasal cavity, sinuses, salivary glands, throat, lips, tonsils and larynx.
Head and neck surgery may also be used to treat:
- Dizziness and motion sickness
- Chronic ear infections
- Snoring and sleep apnea
- Pinched nerves
- Spinal cord pressure
- Injuries to the head and neck
- Sinus pain
- Tonsil problems
- Jaw disorders
- Thyroid conditions
When is Head and Neck Surgery Necessary?
Head and neck surgery may be used to treat a wide range of conditions, ranging from minimally invasive procedures to complex operations. You and your head and neck surgeon will discuss the procedure in detail before scheduling. This is your opportunity to voice any concerns or ask any questions you may have.
Depending on the status of your head and neck condition, your doctor will know when surgery will be necessary. The most telling signs that surgery is necessary are if cancer is present, a tumor is causing pain and health issues, persistent pain, and changes in motor functions.
Common Head & Neck Conditions
Head & Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancers are those that grow in and around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses and mouth. The majority of these cancers are squamous cell carcinomas that form in the cells lining the mucosal surfaces of the head and neck. They often spread to the lymph nodes, but are highly curable if discovered early.
Head & Neck Masses
A number of masses may develop in your head or neck; these masses may also be called growths, tumors, lumps or bumps. While some head and neck masses are cancerous, many are not. It is important to see a physician if any abnormal bump or lump persists for more than two weeks. If a cancer is present, early detection provides the highest chance of successful treatment.
Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer. Whether you’re suffering from basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer or melanoma, chances are your doctor will recommend a surgical procedure to remove the tumors.
Skull Base Tumors
The base of the skull is the area behind the eyes and nose that reaches to the back of the head. Tumors forming in this region may be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Their proximity to the spinal cord, nerves and blood vessels in a confined space makes treatment difficult.
Common Head and Neck Cancer Treatments
The treatment for head and neck cancer depends on the size and location of your specific tumor. Your team of experts will work together to decide what combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy will work best for you. These treatment plans are put together with the highest level of care in order to return the best outcomes.
How Long Does Recovery Take from Head and Neck Surgery?
Your recovery time depends entirely on the surgery you received. Some will require only two or three days in the hospital, barring any complications, while others may require a week or more in an in-patient unit.
Most patients will require assistance after their discharge, as it is normal to feel tired and weak for a week after surgery. Home care services are available for those patients who need additional help. Your doctor may recommend reconstructive surgery following your procedure in order to achieve a more natural look. Some may require rehabilitation services such as speech therapy.