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Head & Neck

Providing the best care for head and neck cancers

Caring for patients with cancers of the head and neck is a major focus for our division, and we are the high volume centre for the Maritime Provinces. Our mandate is to provide excellence in quality and timeliness for the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients from the Maritime Provinces who develop malignant diseases of the head and neck.

Evaluation and treatment recommendations come under the auspices of a well-organized tumour board that meets on a weekly basis. This includes head and neck surgeons, radiation oncologists and medical oncologists, along with dedicated head and neck radiologists and pathologists. There is a separate monthly tumour board for thyroid malignancies. 

Our approach is interdisciplinary and includes assessment by members of several services, including Otolaryngology─Head and Neck Surgery, radiation oncology, nursing, nutrition, speech and language pathology, social work, and prosthodontics services. A weekly oncology clinic offers on-site access to these services. A multidisciplinary assessment of head and neck oncology inpatients is done weekly.

Head and neck cancer is fully represented on the Head & Neck Oncology Site Team, a division of Cancer Care Nova Scotia. The primary focus of the Site Team is to develop, standardize and refine provincial guidelines for treatment of patients with various head and neck cancers.

Staff

  • Baron, Jenny, RN, Nursing
  • Boudreau, Sonya, Dietitian
  • Bullock, Martin, MD, FRCPC, Pathology
  • Caines, Judy, MD, FRCPC, Diagnostic Radiology
  • Chinnery, Sandy, MSW, Social Work
  • Greene, Adele, RN, Nursing
  • Hart, Robert, MD, FRCSC, Head & Neck Surgeon
  • Murphy, George, MD, FRCPC, Diagnostic Radiology
  • Murphy, Susan, Speech Language Pathologist
  • Phillips, Judi, RN, Nursing
  • Rajaraman, Murali, MD, FRCPC, Radiation Oncology
  • Richardson, Stuart, DDS, Prosthodontics
  • Rigby, Matthew, MD, MPH, FRCSC, Head & Neck Surgeon
  • Schmidbauer, Judy, Speech & Language Pathology
  • Taylor, S. Mark, MD, FRCSC, Head & Neck Surgeon
  • Trider, Annette, RN, Nursing
  • Trites, Jonathan, BSc, MD, FRCSC, Head & Neck Surgeon 
  • Wilke, Derek, MD, FRCPC, Radiation Oncology
  • Yliheikkila, Paula, DDS, Prosthodontics

Clinical activities

Both the surgical oncology and radiation oncology arms of the program are very active in treating lesions of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, nose and paranasal sinuses, thyroid, salivary glands, ear, orbit, skull base, and cervicofacial skin.

Our Head & Neck Oncology Program has excellent working relationships with neurosurgery, thoracic surgery, hematology/oncology and endocrinology services.

We are one of the national leaders in transoral laser microsurgery, a minimally invasive technique for removing tumours of the upper aerodigestive tract. 

Functional and aesthetic rehabilitation is an important aspect of our program. A full complement of reconstructive modalities are available, including highly developed regional- and free-tissue transfer techniques and advanced prosthetics.

Research activities

Current research includes:

  • Anatomic studies for regional and free flaps
  • Cellular markers for thyroid cancer on fine needle biopsy
  • Clinical and functional outcomes in head and neck cancer by treatment type
  • Effect of tumour depth on rate of regional lymph node metastasis
  • Impact of psychiatric comorbidities on outcomes for head and neck cancer
  • Improving intraoperative margin assessment
  • Molecular markers in HPV associated head and neck cancer
  • Neural repair for acute facial nerve injury
  • Patterns of spread in regional lymph node metastasis
  • Prognostic significance for PET scan characteristics in head and neck cancer
  • Serum markers for thyroid cancer
  • Sexual function and dysfunction post-laryngectomy