Swallowing problems can be caused by a number of reasons, but essentially, an ENT specialist should review any new swallowing problems that do not resolve in order to investigate the likely causes. This is especially the case if there is any unexplained weight loss, blood, breathing problems, lumps in the neck, regurgitation of food or drink, or gradual worsening of symptoms. Many cases of swallowing problems are due to simple causes, but if there is any concern regarding an ongoing, new problem, then review is strongly recommended.
Parotid and Sub-mandibular gland disease
The parotid and sub-mandibular glands are part of the salivary gland system and can be affected by infections, stones, tumours and other inflammatory processes. Any new lumps in the parotid or sub-mandibular glands should be reviewed by an ENT specialist with an interest in Head and Neck Cancer.
Other types of Head and Neck Disease
Unfortunately there are many people still smoking - this results in many cases of oral and throat cancer. The prominence of skin cancer in Australia also can result in complicated neck lymph node disease.
Treatment of head and neck cancer requires the input of multiple specialties including ENT surgeons, radiation and chemotherapy specialists, and other surgeons such as plastic and maxillofacial surgeons, not to mention specialist radiologists and pathologists in the diagnosis of the problem. Most patients also require the assistance of allied health teams such as speech pathologists and physiotherapists in their treatment plan.
Dr Sommerville is a head and neck specialist that has been well trained in head and neck cancer in both his specialty training in Australia, as well as his sub-specialty fellowship in Italy. He also attends the Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Clinic at the Royal Brisbane Hospital as a consultant Head and Neck Surgeon and Skull Base Surgeon.
For advice regarding investigations prior to your patients review appointment, please see Information for GPs.