Why would I need speech and swallow therapy?
Head and neck cancer can occur in your mouth, voice box (larynx) or throat. Treatments typically include surgery to remove cancer and radiation therapy to destroy remaining cancer cells. Find out more about our head and neck cancer program.
These treatments can disrupt delicate tissue structures that help you speak and swallow. Receiving services from a speech and swallow therapist helps many people push past these challenges.
What you need to know about speech and swallow therapy for head and neck cancer
Whether you need therapy depends on your diagnosis and treatment plan. Your care may include:
- Patients with laryngeal (voice box) cancer or cancers of the tongue or mouth often need speech therapy to learn new methods of speaking.
- We use a variety of techniques, including smartphone apps and a special device (electrolarynx) that helps you produce speech.
- If cancer affects your throat or ability to move your tongue and jaw, you may require swallow therapy.
- Therapy includes a range of services, such as exercises to improve the strength and coordination necessary for swallowing.
- Some people have swallowing problems immediately after cancer treatment. Others experience symptoms months or years later.
Our approach to head and neck cancer care?
Speech and swallow therapy is part of our comprehensive approach to head and neck cancer treatment.
Highlights of our program include:
- Personalized care: Our speech and swallow therapist coordinates care with the head and neck cancer team in regular tumor board meetings. These interactions enable our therapist to hear firsthand about your diagnosis and cancer treatment plan. We discuss how treatment may affect your speech and swallowing so the therapist can tailor your personalized care plan.
- Timely speech and swallow therapy: If you receive therapy before you experience difficulty, you may have a lower risk of permanent problems. You receive regular follow-up care, which enables you to start therapy when the time is right.
- Advanced head and neck cancer treatments: We deliver leading care that may preserve your ability to speak and swallow. If treatment requires removing part of your tongue, we use head and neck reconstructive surgery to replace it. Speech and swallow therapy helps you learn to make coordinated movements as you recover.
Speech and swallow therapy: What to expect
If cancer treatments may affect speaking or swallowing, services begin early in your care journey.
Before you start cancer treatment, our therapist meets with you to:
- Discuss possible changes to speaking or swallowing you may experience and how therapy can help
- Conduct testing to help plan your speech and swallow therapy
Services during and after cancer treatment
Speech and swallow therapy once you start cancer treatment may include:
- Evaluations to determine how cancer treatment is impacting your ability to speak or swallow
- Speech therapy to compensate for changes you may experience after radiation therapy or surgery
- Swallow therapy early in your care journey, when necessary, to preserve swallow function
- Regular follow-up care for patients who are not experiencing problems to determine whether they may need therapy later