Early on in my academic training as an Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon it became clear that head and neck cancer is a tough disease to deal with socially and psychologically. To be human is to suffer, but some suffer more than others and it became a burden of mine to help patients and their families navigate this tough time. Winning the cancer fight is a noble goal, but fighting the fight well is often more important.
I focused on improving my skills and experience, listened to my mentors, underwent further international fellowship training and also spent time at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, all the while learning to work with other disciplines to optimise results for patients with head and neck cancer.
After entering the private sector and being blessed to be surrounded by excellent people at the Mediclinic Morningside, I became more aware of the complexities of the health care industry and the need for better models of practicing medicine. Value is providing excellence at a fair price and the multidisciplinary integrated practice unit is a model working well in other centers around the world. We have been focused on doing just that here at the Mediclinic Morningside Head and Neck Unit, formalising our administration, while continuing to meet weekly to discuss patient's management.
Management of head and neck cancer often involves either surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or a combination of the above. Treatment can be difficult to go though and can create problems itself, so meeting with relevant members of our team to prevent and manage issues before and when they arise is essential for best results. Seeing the head and neck surgeon is often the starting point and should be considered the captain of the ship directing management and following up patients over time to ensure control of the cancer.
SPECIALIST ENT SURGEON
- Fellow head and neck surgeons
- Maxillofacial Surgeons
- Plastic and reconstructive surgeons
- Maxillofacial Prosthodontists
- Oral hygienists
- Radiation and Medical Oncologists
- Cyto- and anatomical pathologists
- Palliative physicians
- Social worker
Dr Mark Torres-Holmes is an oto-rhino-laryngologist (ear-nose-voice box specialist) with a special interest in, and further training as a head and neck surgeon. He specifically focuses on, benign (non-cancer) and malignant (cancer) tumours and conditions of the mouth, throat, voice box, sinuses, ear, skin of the head and neck, salivary glands and thyroid gland, as well as rare paediatric airway and neck lump problems.
He developed this interest while working as a specialist consultant at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital for 4 years, being mentored by Professor PC Modi. At that time it became apparent that a multidisciplinary team approach to manage complex head and neck cancers was intuitively better, and this has subsequently been statistically proven. Head and neck cancers affect how someone looks, talks, swallows and breathes, and so has significant impact for our patients socially.
He also has an interest in and collaborates closely with the plastic surgeons in managing and operating on functional nose breathing problems. Dr Mark currently works as a consultant surgeon with the Morningside Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Team who meet weekly to discuss patient’s head and neck problems. Their primary goals in managing patients with head and neck cancer are to get rid of the cancer and prevent recurrence, all the while implementing measures to ensure the best possible quality of life after treatment.