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Head and Neck Cancer Program

The Head and Neck Cancer program is for patients with diagnosed or suspected head and neck cancer.  Head and neck cancers represent a diverse group of cancerous tumors that are best handled through a multi-disciplinary team approach. 

The Head and Neck cancer team focus on the compassionate and coordinated care for each specific patient through their medical expertise, education, and support services. The full spectrum of care is offered from diagnosis and treatment to survivorship programs.

The Billings Clinic head and neck cancer program is led by Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist, Paul Byorth, MD, and Deb White, RN, OCN, patient care navigator. Other team members include a medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and dietitian.  Head and neck cancers represent a diverse group of cancerous tumors that are best handled through a team approach.

How does it work?

  • Patients are referred to the center by a Billings Clinic medical provider, an outside medical provider, or themselves.
  • A patient care navigator contacts the patient and coordinates appointments for diagnostic lab, imaging and medical consults per physician order
  • The patient meets with the patient care navigator who accompanies them to provider appointments
  • A preliminary plan is completed and the case is referred to the next scheduled Tumor Board
  • Final findings and treatment recommendations are presented to the patient by the lead provider
  • The patient care navigator coordinates follow up appointments for treatment

What are the advantages?

  • Enhanced referral experience for the patient
  • Fostered physician collaboration during treatment planning
  • Expeditious medical management
  • Patient provided with clear understandable information regarding their diagnosis, treatment, and possible outcomes

What are the services offered and coordinated through this multidisciplinary approach?

  • Patient Navigator - Specialized nurse who is familiar with head and neck cancers and helps to coordinate the evaluation of each patient as well as serving as the primary point person to help answer questions that may arise during any portion of the evaluation or treatment.
  • Head and Neck Surgery - Surgeons who specialize in the treatment of cancers arising from or spreading to the mouth, throat and voice box, salivary glands, nasal passages, and neck. Their involvement in patient care includes diagnostic procedures including biopsies. Separate surgical treatments may be done by these team members that either alone or in conjunction with other treatments are designed to sustain and cure the patient from their head and neck cancers. These specialized surgeons often remain as part of the team that follows a patient throughout their treatment and in extended follow-up.
  • Radiation Oncology - Oncologists who specialize in the use of radiation in the management of patients with cancer. Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) and volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) are but some of the advanced treatment techniques available at the Billings Clinic.
  • Medical Oncology - Oncologists who specialize in the use of chemotherapy in the management of cancer. Chemotherapy and biotherapeutic agents may be utilized before, during, or after other forms of treatment (i.e. surgery or radiotherapy) depending on the type and extent of cancer.
  • Dental - Evaluation of treatment of teeth and the jaw bone is an important part of the care of a head and neck cancer patient. These services are coordinated through multiple providers in the region.
  • Clinical Trials - Evaluation of new and evolving therapies are available through multiple entities including the Montana Cancer Consortium, RTOG (Radiation Therapy Oncology Group), and our affiliations with the NCCCP (NCI Community Cancer Center Program).
  • Diagnostic Tools - Including MRI, PET/CT, ultrasound guided biopsies, and video swallow evaluations.
  • Dietary Services - To assess and monitor the nutritional needs of patients as they proceed through treatment.
  • Speech Therapy - To evaluate, monitor and treat speech and swallowing difficulties that can arise as a result of the disease and/or treatment.
  • Financial Counselors - To help patients with insurance and other financial concerns to help minimize these issues before treatment is initiated.
  • Social Work - Available to help with many concerns that can develop during treatment including but not limited to: available financial support, housing options during treatment, emotional, psychological, and social concerns.
  • Tobacco Cessation Resources - The Billings Clinic has a dedicated tobacco cessation coach available to all cancer patients and their family members.
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