Head and Neck Pathology

Goals and Objectives

In general, the objectives for each competency are those mandated by the Royal College for General and Anatomical Pathology. However, the following are specific objectives for this rotation:

Medical Expert

  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of the anatomy, histology and embryology of the upper aerodigestive tract, ear, thyroid and parathyroid glands.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the interpretation of biopsies from the upper aerodigestive tract and ear.
  • Demonstrate skill in the gross dissection of common resection specimens from the head and neck, specifically thyroidectomy, laryngectomy, mandibulectomy, maxillectomy, neck dissections, salivary gland resections, and skin resections.
  • Acquire proficiency in the interpretation of head and neck resection specimens and prepare well-organized, comprehensive reports that convey the appropriate information to clinicians.
  • Understand the unique role viruses such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) play in the development of head and neck cancers.
  • Understand the role genetic alterations play in the development of salivary gland tumours and know when to order ancillary molecular tests.
  • Acquire proficiency in the interpretation of head and neck frozen sections.


  • Demonstrate the ability to preview cases to be presented, appropriately choosing histology and immunohistochemistry slides to present, presenting the pertinent pathological features effectively, advising on the appropriateness of obtaining additional material for future studies (e.g. to clarify a questionable diagnosis).
  • Demonstrate the ability to teach and provide guidance for Pathologist Assistants in the appropriate gross examination of complex head and neck specimens.
  • Demonstrate the ability to teach surgery and oncology residents and medical students at interdisciplinary rounds, frozen sections or teaching sessions.
  • Gain a more thorough understanding of the clinical aspects of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery (through attendance at rounds and interaction with ENT surgeons).

Health Advocate/Professional

  • Gain an appreciation for the unique socioeconomic status of many patients with head and neck malignancies, and the physical and emotional difficulties posed by their therapy and rehabilitation.
  • Understand the implications of a malignant diagnosis on the subsequent therapy provided to a patient, particularly as it relates to thyroid cancer and squamous cell carcinoma of the upper aerodigestive tract.
  • Know when to appropriately consult.


  • Critically appraise sources of information relating to head & neck medicine and pathology.
  • Develop and implement a personal education strategy to permit acquisition of the appropriate knowledge of head & neck pathology to fulfil the rotation specific objectives.
  • Conduct a research project or case report based on head and neck material (optional).


Updated April, 2020

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