Swallowing Therapy for Head and Neck Cancer
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 .