Rehabilitation for Head and Neck Cancers
Head and neck cancer patients often face complicated treatments. The clinical care team coordinates services and creates an individualized care plan for each patient. This team approach to head and neck cancer treatment leads to better outcomes and improves the quality of life of our patients.
The speech-language pathologist (SLP) is a specially trained member of the clinical care team who provides ongoing assessment of communication skills and swallowing function as well as rehabilitative therapies. If indicated, a comprehensive treatment plan is implemented to preserve or improve function.
Pre-treatment counseling, preventative exercise, and direct therapy intervention are designed to meet the individual needs of the patient. Special tests are sometimes required to help with the planning process and include:
- Swallow study: An X-ray of swallowing used to identify the cause of a swallowing problem and to help find possible solutions.
- Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES): Allows for direct examination of swallowing function by passing a laryngoscope through the nose and observing the throat during the swallow.
- Videostroboscopy: A diagnostic procedure used to view the larynx and vocal cord motion by inserting an endoscope through your mouth or nose.
Home Therapy Programs
Therapy programs for voice and swallowing disorders often require specialized programs or techniques that improve a patient’s ability to carryover new skills at home. Independent home programs are a necessary part of treatment and accelerate the rate of progress.
- Surface Electromyography (sEMG): A record of electrical activity from a muscle or group of muscles obtained through electrodes applied to the skin. This noninvasive procedure provides valuable biofeedback in the treatment of swallowing.
- Trismus Management: Limited mouth opening (trismus) is associated with cancer treatments and is treated with a passive jaw rehabilitation system called TheraBite.