Head and Neck Cancer

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What to expect

Head and Neck Cancer

Head and neck cancer is a general term used to describe when cancer develops in the cells lining the surfaces in both the head and neck. This usually occurs in areas which have mucous lined surfaces, such as the mouth, nose and throat. However, cancer can also occur in the glandular cells and includes areas such as, lymph nodes and tonsils.

Speech and language therapy will treat individuals with head and neck cancer by helping to improve and support any speech, language, communication and swallowing difficulties.

What is head and neck cancer?

Head and neck cancer is when cells in the head and neck become cancerous. There are many different areas in and around the head and neck which cancer can develop. Some of these include:

  • Oral cavity
  • Nose or nasopharynx
  • Eye
  • Ear
  • Salivary gland
  • Larynx or thyroid gland

This type of cancer is uncommon, however if it does develop, it is usually squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer develops in the mucous lined surfaces such as the mouth, nose or throat. Symptoms will depend upon the area affected and may include one or more of the following;

  • A prolonged suffering of mouth ulcers
  • Pain during swallowing or chewing
  • Difficulty breathing or talking
  • Sore throat or ear ache affecting one side
  • Swelling in the mouth or neck

Depending upon which areas are affected by cancer, speech may be affected on a short term basis. It can also mean a permanent change to the way someone speaks. This is where Speech and Language Therapists will be able to assess and support an individual in their recovery. This may be through the use of alternative methods of communication or adapted methods.

What causes head and neck cancer?

There is not an exact cause of head and neck cancer, however as with other cancers, there are other risk factors associated with head and neck cancer. Some of these risk factors include:

  • The use of chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Over exposure to the sun
  • HPV virus
  • Paterson Kelly syndrome - difficulty swallowing, after tissue grows over the larynx and prevents normal swallowing action.

These are risk factors only, therefore someone exposed to these risks, will not necessarily develop cancer.

What problems caused by head and neck cancer can speech and language therapy help with?

Speech and language therapy can help with difficulties associated with head and neck cancer. Speech and language therapy can help both pre and post-surgery, speech and language therapy will be beneficial in order to work on the following areas:

Speech and language therapy will be tailored to each individual and may include advice for family or carers, as well an investigation into other forms of communication if needed, such as Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

How does speech and language therapy help head and neck cancer?

Speech and language therapy can help people who have head and / or neck cancer in many different ways. This can be before or after surgery and will depend upon severity. Speech and language therapists will develop strategies for speech intelligibility and will ensure each therapy plan is personal and specific to each person receiving treatment. This programme will often be coupled with rehab and will aim to achieve the best possible communication for each individual. Speech and language therapy treatment will be reviewed on a regular basis and strategies put in place in order to achieve the best possible outcome. The most important thing is to remember that a change in speech production will take time to get used to, however will become easier with a good, strong support network and time.

Benefits of speech and language therapy are:

What would speech and language therapy treatment for head and neck cancer involve?

Speech and language therapy for head and neck cancer may involve treatment using one or more of the following methods:

Specific treatment options for head and neck cancer can include:

An initial assessment will be carried out by one of our speech and language therapists. This will highlight any worries and difficulties concerning communication and speech. It will also provide a chance for you to share any concerns you may have, and allow you to discuss what you would like to work on and improve.

How do I arrange a speech and language therapy assessment?

To arrange a speech and language therapy assessment with one of our speech and language therapists please email office@slt.co.uk or call 0330 0885 643 and a member of our team will be happy to help.

Summary

Head and neck cancer can occur in many different areas of the head and neck; however is a less common form of cancer. Speech and language therapy is beneficial for individuals to recover their speech or discover new and different alternatives to speech and communication. Speech and language therapy will also support patient's with eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties. To arrange a speech and language therapy appointment please call 0330 0885 643.


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To speak to a Speech and Language Therapist or to book an appointment, call us on 0161 883 0111 or email office@slt.co.uk

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