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Commentary
Mar/Apr 2010

Bioethics and Humanism in Head and Neck Cancer

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio.

Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2010;12(2):85-86. doi:10.1001/archfacial.2010.15

All surgeons who care for patients with cancer understand the emotional toll this disease takes on the patient, family, friends, and even the surgeon. An oncologic surgeon has the additional challenge of proposing procedures that commonly affect form and function. In no field of oncologic surgery is this more apparent than in head and neck oncology. A patient who elects to undergo extirpative surgery of the face, head, and neck often faces alterations in appearance and upper aerodigestive function that can be devastating and isolating.1 The emotional and social sequelae of these procedures impose an additional burden for the patient beyond the concern of the cancer, which requires considerable understanding and compassion by the surgeon.

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