Innovative treatment goes hand in hand with a full menu of support options and resources for patients and their families. Before, during and after a course of treatment, our staff guide patients and families through decisions to be made, realistic expectations about potential lifestyle changes and many different resources for support of all kinds. From pretreatment counseling to appointments with oral surgeons, registered dietitians, speech-language pathologists and other specialists, patients get expert help in navigating all aspects of their diagnosis.

Nutrition During and After Treatment - Video FAQ

Makayla Konop, RD, clinical dietitian, explains how head and neck cancer patients can have nutrition issues.

Head and neck cancer patients face a lot of different nutrition issues based on their cancer type and their treatment. The location of your cancer can cause mechanical difficulties which can harm your ability to chew and swallow your food. During treatment, you may have pain or discomfort with swallowing. This can also impact your nutrition plan for head and neck cancer.

Whether it's one or both of these issues, there is a high risk for nutritional deficiency, and that is what our team monitors very closely throughout your cancer journey.

Makayla Konop, RD, clinical dietitian, describes how personalized interventions are built into each head and neck cancer patient's care plan.

We make sure that every head and neck cancer patient gets the best possible nutrition, and we start by doing this with a pre-screening every time you come into clinic. That allows us to see what type of nutritional risk is possible. Based on that, we develop personalized interventions that we implement directly in your care plan.

For example, somebody with throat cancer can have a lot of nutrition concerns — one of which being what you can and cannot eat based on the side effects and symptoms of your treatment. We work with them on what specific foods are appropriate for them and then that implements right into their care plan.

Makayla Konop, RD, clinical dietitian, explains how the team creates personalized meal and nutrition plans for head and neck cancer patients.

We try to make the meal plan and the nutrition plan very patient-centered and very personalized to your current lifestyle. We like to meet you and make sure that anything we recommend is something you can sustain in your lifestyle.

Makayla Konop, RD, clinical dietitian, talks about the most common questions she gets from head and neck cancer patients.

The big question is "Is there anything I can't have, that I absolutely have to avoid in my diet?"

We do our best to keep your diet as liberal as possible with as many of the things that you like to eat in your diet. We avoid limiting your diet unless it's absolutely necessary.

Makayla Konop, RD, clinical dietitian, explains how the nutrition team collaborates with the rest of the head and neck cancer care team.

Our nutrition team is in constant collaboration with all other members of the care team. That allows us to anticipate some of the upcoming challenges and focus on real-time changes to the nutrition plan to provide you with the most consistent and thorough care.

Knowing that the head and neck cancer population is at higher risk for nutritional deficiencies, our team is ready to help you through any of those obstacles that come along.

Lindsey Nye, MS, CCC, SLP, speech language pathologist, explains how long a feeding tube is used for head and neck cancer patients.

Typically, if you need a feeding tube, you will have it for as long as you need it. For a lot of people, this is just for the extent of treatment. As soon as treatment is done and they're feeling better, we can get them back to swallowing again. Then the tube can come out.

For others, if they feel like it's needed, it can stay in longer and for as long as they need it.

Lindsey Nye, MS, CCC, SLP, speech language pathologist, describes when a feeding tube may be needed for a head and neck cancer patient during and after treatment.

A speech therapist can help determine if somebody needs a feeding tube, and it's typically something that we use as a little extra help. It is usually used when somebody is unable to get enough nutrition by eating. Swallowing has become more challenging, more difficult, and they feel like they cannot eat enough.

We work with our patients to make sure that they never stop eating throughout the treatment process. We want them to keep swallowing, and a feeding tube would only be used in addition to what they are able to eat by mouth.

Not every head and neck cancer patient will need a feeding tube. Typically, only a very small percentage of people that go through treatment will end up getting one. It is more common with surgery, but it is something that is usually decided between the entire team and the patient when they feel like it is necessary to help them to get proper nutrition throughout their treatment.

If it is decided to get a feeding tube, the person that receives that feeding tube will have it for as long as they need it. For a lot of people, this is just for the extent of treatment. As soon as treatment is done and they are feeling better, we can get them back to swallowing again that tube can come out. For others, if they feel like it is needed, it can stay in longer and for as long as they need.

Pretreatment Care and Patient Support

Head and Neck Cancer Program staff value each patient’s quality of life as much as they strive to successfully treat the condition. We want patients to do more than just survive the cancer. We want them to thrive after cancer, and we want to make sure they have outstanding resources for all aspects of treatment and healing. Just a few of these resources include:

  • Pretreatment counseling 
  • Journey to Wellness Support Group — People affected by a head and neck or other cancer diagnosis, as well as their spouses, family members, significant others and caregivers are welcome to attend our monthly support group to share information and experiences, as well as receive encouragement and support. This monthly support group offers periodic speakers and is also intended as an open forum. Visit our calendar or call 414-777-7700 for more information.
  • Jeffrey C. Siegel Quality of Life Center, offering patients and family members dealing with cancer a variety of services onsite, such as the following:
    • Psych-oncology 
    • Registered dietitians 
    • Complementary (non-traditional) medicine, such as Reiki and acupuncture 
    • Social workers 
    • Financial counselors 
    • Survivorship programs 
    • Chaplains 
    • Art therapists 
    • Music therapists 
    • Patient resource library 
    • Smoking cessation
  • Reflections in a Head Mirror, a blog by Dr. Bruce Campbell with insights and stories to inform and inspire cancer patients and their families 
  • Small Stones Wellness Center, supporting patient healing by enhancing appearance, promoting relaxation, boosting self-esteem and providing resources for wellness 
  • Rehabilitation services, provided by physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) physicians and physical, occupational, speech and swallow therapists 
  • Oral and dental implants and prosthetics 
  • Cancer Genetics Screening Program, providing counseling and testing to those with increased cancer risk due to personal history, family history or an underlying condition 
  • Child Life Services, with experts to help educate, prepare and support children during an adult’s hospitalization and treatment 
  • Palliative Care Program, the first program of its kind in Wisconsin, aims to improve end-of-life care for patients and families through clinical care, education and support 
  • Clinical Cancer Center Pharmacy, located on the second level 
  • 87th Street Bistro, offering natural and organic menu options 
  • Cancer Rehabilitation Gym 
  • On the Move, a walking program for our cancer patients, which your nurse can tell you all about

Additional Resources

Patient education is an important part of our overall philosophy. In addition to our own internal resources and patient education efforts, other resources that may be helpful include:

National Cancer Institute

American Cancer Society

Head and Neck Cancer Alliance

Support for People with Oral & Head & Neck Cancer (SPOHNC)

Web Whispers — An online laryngectomy support group

The Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association

Medical College of Wisconsin:
Otolaryngology & Communication Sciences

American Head and Neck Society

Virtual Visits Are Available

Safe and convenient virtual visits by video let you get the care you need via a mobile device, tablet or computer wherever you are. We’ll gather your medical records for you and get our experts’ input so we can offer treatment options without an in-person visit. To schedule a virtual visit, call 1-866-680-0505.

Recognized as High Performing by U.S. News & World Report

Froedtert Hospital is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as high performing in three adult specialties and 16 procedures and conditions, including cancer.