Case study: nutritional considerations in the head and neck cancer patient

  • N van Wyk


Head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC) involves cancer of the oral cavity, oropharynx, hypopharynx and larynx. By virtue of the tumour location, nutrition support in this patient cohort can be extremely challenging. A 48-year-old male presented with a two-month history of progressive dysphagia, significant loss of weight, shortness of breath and coughing secondary to a non-benign lesion in his throat. This debilitating condition led to severe malnutrition and due to the prevailing nutritional risk the patient was assessed as a very high risk for refeeding syndrome. Several investigations were done during the admission, which then confirmed the final diagnosis of a transglottic squamous cell cancer. Surgical optimisation, including preoperative nutritional optimisation, was discussed in a multidisciplinary meeting and a total laryngectomy was scheduled seven days later. Perioperative nutritional management required careful consideration of several factors but the involvement of dietetics services from the day of admission played a crucial role in the successful management of this patient.

Keywords: head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC), nutritional optimisation, nutrition support, refeeding syndrome, total laryngectomy, transglottic squamous cell cancer

How to Cite
van Wyk, N. (2022). Case study: nutritional considerations in the head and neck cancer patient. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 35(2), 85–87. Retrieved from
Case Study