Speech and Language Therapy

Talking and swallowing are things we take for granted until they are not working as they would be normally. A diagnosis of head and neck cancer may mean that a person’s speech and swallowing is affected. Some of these changes will be as a result of the cancer itself, and some as a result of the chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery offered as the best form of treatment.

The speech and language therapists at UHB work closely with the rest of the multidisciplinary Head and Neck team to assess and manage the difficulties that people may already have, or may come across as a result of their treatment. It is the job of the Speech and Language therapist to explain and support both the person themselves and their families with some of the changes that occur. It may be that the person has already adapted to these changes, or the therapist will spend time with the person and their family advising them on how to manage some of the difficulties that their cancer, or the treatment, is giving them

You will see a member of the Speech and Language Therapy team before you start your treatment which will give you an opportunity to ask questions about your speech and swallowing. You are likely to see the therapists when you are an inpatient and outpatient on a regular basis so they can monitor and discuss your progress through your chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery. They will discuss the easiest ways to learn to swallow safely again and how to make the best of your speech.

It is not easy to predict some of these changes/symptoms or how they will progress because no two people and their families are the same. The size of the tumour, where it is and what treatment is thought possible in each case all affect how people recover, and the symptoms that they may be left with. Some people may lose their voice completely whilst in others their swallowing and speech are only minimally affected.

The Speech and Language Therapists using their experience will be able to talk with each individual about some of the expected problems, and how to overcome them.