Choking on Cancer
One of the hardest diagnosis a person can ever get is that of cancer. Just the word evokes a sour taste in the mouth. There are many types of cancer but one that can significantly impact how a person speaks and eats is head and neck cancer (HNC).
This type of cancer can impact the bones, muscles and nerve of the mouth, throat and neck. These parts of the body are made up of many small and interconnected muscles and nerves. Even a small tumor, can significantly impact how someone can swallow water or their favorite food. Radiation treatment causes fibrosis to the tissues which reduced range of motion motion for speech and swallowing. It is extremely important for a speech language pathologist (SLP) to be involved in the care of someone before, during and after HNC treatment.
How can an SLP help? We are highly educated in the anatomy and physiology of the head and neck. We take courses about normal swallow function and swallow impairment. We teach our patients exercises to help maintain their swallow function while they go through cancer treatment. We then follow-up with them to do rehabilitative swallow treatment. We also address any speech concerns a person might have.
Out clinic is unique in that we offer imaging for the swallow right in our office. You don't have to wait months to seen at the local hospital for an instrumental swallow evaluation. The procedure we use is called a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES). We take a small endoscope and go in through the nose and then have the patient eat and drink some food items while we assess the swallow function. This is a quick and easy procedure that allows us to determine what food items appear the easiest and safest to eat as well as any swallowing impairments.
The FEES procedure is the gold standard in swallow evaluations. We can look at the anatomy and see how all parts of the throat and larynx are functioning. We can then take this information and create an individualized treatment plan for our patients.
Please contact us if you are concerns about your swallowing and feel like you might benefit from swallowing treatment.