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Role of Speech Pathologists

Patients & Caregivers

Pre-Treatment Support

Before starting treatment, speech pathologists play a key role in evaluating and addressing any speech, swallowing, or communication difficulties that might come up due to the cancer or cancer treatment. They work closely with patients to develop personalized care plans which may include exercises to maintain or improve speech and swallowing functions.

During Treatment

Throughout cancer treatment, like surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, speech pathologists continue to work with these cancer patients. They provide tips on challenges with swallowing, mouth functions, and talking that can occur during cancer treatment.

Post-Treatment Care

After treatment, speech pathologists help with the recovery process. They help patients get back speech and swallowing abilities with specific exercises. Additionally, speech pathologists provide guidance on food and drink changes to make sure the patient can swallow safely and lessen complications. Speech pathologists also continue to see cancer patients after treatment and recovery to check that healthy cells in the mouth do not become damaged from the cancer treatment.

Communication Support

Speech pathologists also help with communication strategies. They help patients use alternative communication methods, like a symbol board or an app on their mobile device, if needed and teach families and caregivers how to communicate with their loved ones.

While many people do not know what speech pathologists do in health care, they play an important role for patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Having a speech therapist work with the oncology team is extremely important after a patient receives a head and neck cancer diagnosis. They provide essential support before, during, and after treatment in many ways that improve recovery and quality of life.

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Benefits of Having a Speech Pathologist

Having a speech pathologist on your care team means having a professional who knows the specific challenges associated with head and neck cancer. They offer support, guidance, and knowledge to improve communication, swallowing, and overall quality of life before, during, and after treatment. Their specialized skills and personalized care greatly contribute to a smoother recovery journey and improved outcomes.

If you or a loved one is facing a head and neck cancer diagnosis, consider including a speech pathologist in your care team to ensure comprehensive support and better overall well-being.

For further information or to seek assistance, consult your healthcare provider or reach out to a certified speech pathologist who specializes in head and neck cancer care.

For more information about the role of speech pathologists and oral health, see these resources:


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The information on the Rhode Island Cancer and Oral Health Resource Guide, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images, and other external materials are for informational purposes only. The Partnership to Reduce Cancer in Rhode Island does not provide medical advice. The information on this website is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

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