Head and Neck Cancer and ENT’s

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Head and Neck Cancer and ENT’s

Hi there. I haven’t been diagnosed but have been referred and have a few questions regarding the diagnostic process for head and neck cancers. My GP has referred me to a private ENT as she feels I need to be seen quickly and the public system will take too long. She seemed to think that a private ENT would still be able to refer me to the public system and potentially get a scope, biopsy etc done quicker that way. 

 

Has anyone else gone through this way? I’m concerned that seeing the private ENT for an initial consultation will mean I will end up needing to go through the scope and everything privately and I’m not sure I can afford that. I do have private health insurance but I expect it would still be a huge out of pocket expense. 

 

I assumed that a potential cancer referral through the public system would be seen quickly but my GP seemed to think it would still take months. I’m feeling a bit confused and overwhelmed by everything and very concerned about the cost (but I also don’t want to wait for months if it IS cancer). Does this sound like the normal process? 

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Re: Head and Neck Cancer and ENT’s

Hi mumto4,

 

This must be a very difficult time for you, having a potential diagnosis looming and also trying to navigate our difficult health system.

 

The way public health works with referrals is through a triage process or "categorisation". When the relevent department receives your GPs referral, a doctor will categorise it in terms of its urgency. Many potential cancer related referrals are categorised highly and are seen quicker, however it does depend on a few factors including your complaint and how well your GP has written the referral (ie the key information they have provided). It can't hurt asking your GP to put in a public referral as well and seeing how they categorise it. I know in Qld, if it is categorised as a 1, you will be seen in 30 days.

 

Hope this helps, and all the best on your journey.

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Re: Head and Neck Cancer and ENT’s

Thanks Nosfalamos. I just rang the private ENT she referred me to and they can’t see me for 9 weeks (but they didn’t ask for any details or a copy of the referral). I’m not sure if it’s worth ringing them back and giving them more information or seeing the GP again and asking for a referral to the public system. 

 

My concern is that I’m worried about oral HPV as I had CIN3-precancerous cells removed from my cervix 15 years ago, caused by HPV.  That progressed from CIN1 to CIN3 to precancerous in less than a month and my gyn told me if I had left it another two weeks, it would have been even worse so I’m not sure I’m comfortable waiting another two months. But at the same time, I don’t want to overreact and be a drama queen because statistically speaking, it’s unlikely to be anything sinister. 

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Re: Head and Neck Cancer and ENT’s

I’d ring them back. Maybe though that’s their wait time for their most urgent cases? You could ask them how they categorise their referrals. Give them your details, and if it is truely 9 weeks then get your referral sent elsewhere. The health system is full of obstacles, both public and private! Given your history, it would be wise to act fast. 

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