Treatments for head and neck cancer can cause certain side effects that may affect a patient's speech, eating techniques, swallowing and mouth function. These cancer treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, which could present the following side effects:

  • Dry mouth/throat (xerostomia)
  • Difficulty swallowing food and/or liquids (dysphagia)
  • Heavy and sticky mouth secretions
  • Jaw tightness/pain (trismus)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss and dehydration
  • Changes in speech/voice

How can a Speech Language Pathologist help patients with head/neck cancer?

Speech Pathologists assist patients during pre- and post-radiation and surgical treatment and can provide the following:

  • Instrumental diagnosis of swallowing disorders by Modified Barium Swallow to determine aspiration risk and provide information for specific therapy exercises and compensatory strategies.
  • Treatment of Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) utilizing compensatory strategies and specific exercises to improve strength and mobility.
  • Pre-treatment (before radiation or surgery) with training in swallowing exercises.
  • Treatment of Dysarthria (speech production) and oral-motor impairments (lip, tongue, jaw movement).
  • Education and treatment in use of alternative communication devices .

For additional information you can contact the Rehabilitation Services Department at UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center by calling 410-787-4433.