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St James’s Hospital is a centre of excellence in the management of head and neck cancers. It accepts referrals from all 26 counties, including larger centres such as Cork and Galway. We are a dedicated team comprising doctors, nurses, speech and language therapists, dieticians, social workers and physiotherapists, who work to provide you with the support and specialist care you need when dealing with something as traumatic as a cancer diagnosis. Here are some statistics from our head and neck data manager, Mary Devlin:

  • From 2010 to 2012, the team diagnosed between 250 and 300 new cancers.
  • The latest report from the National Cancer Registry Ireland shows that the ratio of head and neck cancers in men to women was almost two men to each woman.
  • The average age of head and neck cancer patients who were treated in the hospital between 2010 and 2012 was 60.

  • Cancer can develop in any tissue or organ in your head and neck. As they grow, cancer cells can affect how the organ or tissue normally works. The areas where these cancers can develop are:

    • Mouth (oral) cancer can occur in your lips, tongue, gums, cheeks, roof of your mouth (the hard palate) and the floor of your mouth (under your tongue).
    • Oropharyngeal cancer can occur in the soft part of the roof of your mouth, the back and side walls of your throat and the base of your tongue.
    • Nose cancer can occur in your nasopharynx (the area where your throat joins your nose), nostrils or the lining of your nose. Cancer can also develop in the bones around your face or in your sinuses.
    • Ear cancer can occur in and around your ear but is very unusual.
    • Eye cancer is very rare.
    • Salivary gland cancer is rare. Benign lumps in the salivary glands are common but need to be checked out. There are also small salivary glands in your mouth, which need to be cared for too.
    • Laryngeal (larynx) cancer is not common.
    • Thyroid cancer can occur as a lower midline neck swelling.
  • The aim of treatment is to stop any spread of cancer and, if possible, to remove all the cancer from your body. 

    Treatments for head and neck cancer are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.  They may be used on their own or together.

    • It is recommended that patients bring a relative/friend to the clinic.
    • You will meet the consultant surgeon and his team at your clinic appointment. Care is taken to ensure that you are given the time, privacy and opportunity to speak and ask questions.
    • You will meet our head and neck cancer nurse coordinator, who will ensure that as much information as possible relating to the treatment plan is given at the time of diagnosis.
    • You may meet our speech and language therapist and dietician, if it is appropriate to your needs.
    • Appropriate scans will be ordered while you are an outpatient and followed up by our team/head and neck cancer nurse coordinator
    • Biopsies will be taken either as a day case on the surgical day ward, inpatient or in the outpatients department if required.
    • Scans and biopsies will be discussed at the head and neck multidisciplinary team meeting held on Monday mornings. This is where your surgeon, other head and neck surgeons and medical and radiation oncologists, pathologists and radiologists discuss and devise the best treatment plan for you.
    • Your treatment plan could include surgery/radiotherapy/chemotherapy. Surgery and chemotherapy are available in the hospital. Currently, head and neck cancer patients attend St Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar, Dublin, for radiotherapy treatment.
  • New Patient Appointments:  New patients requiring appointments must submit a referral from their GP/ consultant. New referrals are prioritised by a consultant surgeon and an appropriate appointment will be scheduled for the patient. Patients will be notified of their appointment date by post or by telephone.

    Referral Procedure
    Referrals are to be made by letter in the case of a suspected head and neck cancer the St James Hospital referral form for suspected mouth, head and neck cancer should be sent.

    Electronic referrals can also be made via Healthlink.  

  • Annemarie Farrelly, Head and Neck Cancer Nurse Coordinator  

    Phone: (01) 416 2187

    Joanne Mac Donagh (Head and Neck Cancer Nurse Coordinator)      

    Phone: (01) 4284801

    Irish Cancer Society:

    Freephone: 1800 200 700

    Resource centre located on ground floor of the main hospital near Private 1 ward.

    Arc Cancer Support:

    Phone: (01) 830 7333 (Eccles Street) or (01) 707 8880 (South Circular Road)

    Your own GP will have a list of cancer support services available in your area.

  • Charlotte had tongue cancer and required near-total removal of her tongue, radiotherapy and chemo therapy as treatment.