Seeing a GP
Most head and neck cancers are found when a person goes to see their doctor after noticing a change in the area of their head and neck.
Not all symptoms are caused by cancer, but it is always best to get them checked out.
Don't be embarrassed to ask. Cancers that are found earlier are easier to treat.
What you need to know
Who should I see about symptoms?
Your general practitioner (GP) is the best person to see about symptoms.
The GP will:
- talk to you about your symptoms
- ask about any family history of cancer
- examine you to look for any signs of cancer or other diseases
- send you for tests if these may help with diagnosis.
The GP may also refer you to a specialist. This can happen at the same time as you are having tests, or after the GP gets your test results.
What to ask or talk about
Talking about symptoms
Try to give the doctor as much information as you can. You may feel embarrassed talking about some symptoms but it is important to tell the doctor about them.
Symptoms like lumps or rashes are easy to show your doctor. Others can’t be seen so you have to explain what they are like. These include things like pain, tiredness, feeling sick, diarrhoea, or dizziness.
The doctor may also ask you about other things, like any past illnesses or operations, and whether anyone in your family has had cancer or other illnesses.
It can help to write down anything important that you want to tell the doctor. You may also want to take someone with you for support, or to help you remember what the doctor says.
Optimal care pathways
Seeing your GP about possible cancer symptoms can be the start of a long process of doctors' visits, tests and treatment.
Optimal care pathways have been developed to make sure that cancer patients get high quality care and support throughout their diagnosis and treatment. The pathways provide guidelines for health professionals to make sure that cancer care is consistent and coordinated for all patients.