Reduce or manage side effects of head and neck cancer treatment like dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) with the help of the Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) at Stamford Health.
Dysphagia is any difficulty swallowing.
Signs of difficulty swallowing:
- Frequent coughing or throat clearing while eating or drinking
- Feeling of food getting stuck in the throat
- Wet vocal quality during or following meals
- Increase in effort or number of swallows to clear food
Please immediately notify your speech-language pathologist or doctor if you are experiencing any of the above signs of difficulty swallowing.
What Causes Dysphagia?
If you have head and neck cancer, you have a higher risk for developing dysphagia during and after cancer treatment. That's because of the location of your cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy, radiation treatment, or surgery.
You will work closely with your Speech-Language Pathologist to initiate therapy early in your cancer care. When you start speech and swallowing therapy early, it helps limit the severity and prevent permanent dysphagia.
Therapy for Swallowing Problems
SLPs will evaluate your swallow and provide you with a unique swallow pre-rehabilitation program based on factors individual to you. These exercises will focus on maintaining movement and coordination of the muscles involved in swallowing. You’ll benefit from our online pre-rehabilitation program that makes it easier for you to access your exercises from home and ensure proper technique during your workouts. Access your exercises here.
Side Effects of Cancer Treatment that can contribute to difficulty swallowing:
The following side effects can occur as a result of the chemo and/or radiation therapy and can impact your comfort during swallowing. Please let us know if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms so we can help you find relief for side effects like:
- Fibrosis – Stiffening and scarring of tissue due to radiation
- Lymphedema – Collection of fluid that may cause swelling around the head and neck
- Mucositis – Inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth or throat that cause sores, redness, or pain during swallowing
- Thrush – White coating on the tongue due to a candida fungal infection that can cause discomfort while swallowing
- Trismus – Difficulty opening your mouth, also known as lockjaw
- Xerostomia – Dry mouth