Treatment of head and neck tumors: Follow-up

The follow-up care of our tumor patients is a central point of patient care at the Head and Neck Tumor Center. It is interdisciplinary and interprofessional. A great deal of emphasis is placed on accuracy, early detection of possible recurrences, as well as mitigation and control of possible treatment-related side effects.

Every tumor patient is seen in the tumor consultation of the ORL Clinic or Clinic for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery after completion of therapy. There, questions are asked about therapy-related side effects and a clinical examination is performed to detect any residual tumor disease. Depending on tumor location and previous therapy, swallowing ability, chewing, nutritional status, voice, articulation, hearing function, sense of taste, wound healing, and dental status are assessed. In addition, a check is made to see whether pain still exists and whether it has been optimally treated.

This examination takes place in the interdisciplinary consultation, in which patients who have undergone radiotherapy are also assessed by experts in radiotherapy/radio-oncology.

In the further course, clinical tumor control follows every 3 months and, depending on the tumor stage, additional imaging (e.g., FDG-PET-CT or MRI) takes place after 3, 6, 15, and 24 months. In case of abnormal findings in this control, a specific endoscopic examination with sampling or fine needle aspiration may be necessary to decide whether additional treatment steps are required.

Two years after completion of therapy, these checks can then be performed at 6-month intervals, often in collaboration with resident specialists.

Integrated into the aftercare concept is also a consultation hour for specialized nursing. In addition to wound care, this also involves the care of a tracheostoma (tracheotomy) or feeding tubes, as well as pain management, social aspects and addiction counseling.

Also part of the care team is speech therapy to optimize swallowing and speech, nutritional counseling, physical therapy to perform lymphatic drainage, the Center for Integrative Medicine and psycho-oncology.

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