“A head and neck cancer diagnosis, like any other cancer diagnosis can be scary,” says Nicole Troendle, MS, CCC-SLP, Director of the Speech and Language Department at Bacharach.
“Bacharach’s full multi-disciplinary team approach can help you with the best possible outcome before and after surgery. The oncologist or referring doctor may not always refer to all three disciplines, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. However, our skilled team will make referrals to each other based on the your need and the results of an initial evaluation.”
Cancers of the head and neck can form in the oral cavity (mouth), pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), paranasal sinuses, nasal cavity, and salivary glands. Depending on the location of the malignancy and time of presentation along the continuum of medical/surgical management, signs and symptoms may include a variety of functional impairments.
Cancer treatment for head and neck cancer commonly causes swallowing problems, called dysphagia and/or possible changes in speech or voice. Speech therapy can help to improve these impairments.
How much trouble you may have depends on the type of cancer, the type of surgery you may need, and other treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy.
Each patient is individually evaluated by the speech therapist. At Bacharach, the speech therapist has the opportunity to collaborate with physical and occupational therapists as needed, to ensure the most successful outcome.
You may see a speech language pathologist before you have surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. The therapist can talk to you about changes you may have in your speech, voice, and swallowing and monitor you after surgery or radiation to determine the need for treatment and create a treatment plan.
Treatment for swallowing problems after head and neck cancer can include a variety of modalities and treatment approaches such as:
- Strengthening and improving range of motion in your muscles to help you chew, swallow and speak.
- Strategies or compensatory techniques to make your swallow safer
- Food and liquid texture changes to reduce aspiration risk (food or liquid going into your airway)
- Myofascial release (a manual therapy technique often used in massage)
- VitalStim® NMES – Neuromusclular electrical stimulation
- MDTP – McNeill Dysphagia Therapy Program
- Referral to Physical Therapy for lymphedema management (can address edema to assist with improving swallow function)