what is dysphagia?

Dysphagia is the term used by healthcare professionals to describe difficulties in swallowing function. Patients with head and neck cancer must undergo treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgical removal of the cancerous tumor. These treatments can have a significant impact on the muscles essential for swallowing.

The Head & Neck Dysphagia Clinic

At The Voice and Swallowing Center’s Head and Neck Dysphagia Clinic, our multidisciplinary team of otolaryngologists, laryngologists and speech-language pathologists have expertise in evaluating and treating patients with head and neck cancer before, during and following these treatments. Early intervention — even prior to surgery or radiation therapy — is essential to maintain optimum swallowing function despite the typical side effects from the treatments.

Swallowing Problems Associated with Head & Neck Cancer Treatments

  • Hoarseness
  • Taste changes
  • Dental problems
  • Pain with swallowing
  • Mouth sores and pain
  • Food or pills feel stuck in the throat
  • Dry mouth / reduced saliva production
  • Reduced tongue strength or movement
  • Difficulty chewing or opening one’s mouth
  • Coughing or choking during or after eating

What to Expect During Your Visit

  • A comprehensive ENT examination
  • Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES — see below)
  • Explanation of results with dietary recommendations and individualized exercises
  • Education regarding the side effects of treatment and how to minimize them
  • Determination of the need for additional referrals or testing procedures
  • Assistance in establishing consultation with a dietitian prior to and during treatment

FEES Examination

  • Provides information needed to establish an individualized intervention program, and may lead to recommendations for additional testing procedures
  • Provides baseline information prior to cancer treatments
  • Results help establish goals for swallowing therapy, which continues throughout cancer treatments

After Completion of Cancer Treatments

Patients will:

  • Continue to meet with the swallowing therapists for more intensive swallowing therapy, as needed
  • Continue to meet with their oncologists and ENTs as needed
  • Monitor possible side effects of the radiation treatments

Questions About Dysphagia?

Should you have additional questions about our dysphagia clinic or The Voice and Swallowing Center, please call us at 704-295-3345. Our staff is happy to provide more information and answer any questions you may have.

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