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Role of Speech Pathologists


Pre-Treatment Support

Before starting treatment, speech pathologists play a key role in assessing and addressing any speech, swallowing, or communication difficulties that might arise due to the cancer or its treatment. They work closely with patients to develop personalized plans, at certain times offering exercises to maintain or improve speech and swallowing functions.

During Treatment

Throughout treatment, such as surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, speech pathologists continue to support patients. They provide guidance on managing swallowing issues, offer techniques to maintain oral function, and suggest strategies to communicate effectively if there are changes in speech clarity as a result of the treatment.

Post-Treatment Care

After treatment, speech pathologists assist in the recovery process. They help patients regain speech and swallowing abilities, offering exercises and techniques tailored to individual needs. Additionally, they provide guidance on dietary modifications to ensure safe swallowing and prevent complications. Speech pathologists also follow patients long-term to ensure radiation fibrosis does not affect speech and swallowing months after oncology treatment concludes.

Communication Support

Beyond physical recovery, speech pathologists aid in communication strategies. They assist patients in using alternative communication methods if needed and provide valuable support to families and caregivers in understanding and enhancing communication with their loved ones.​​

While many people do not know what speech pathologists do in medical care, they play an important role in the journey of individuals diagnosed with head and neck cancer. When facing this diagnosis, having a speech pathologist as part of the patient’s care team becomes incredibly important to their overall health and wellbeing. These specialists provide essential support before, during, and after treatment in numerous ways that greatly impact recovery and quality of life.

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Benefits of Having a Speech Pathologist

Having a speech pathologist within the care team means having a dedicated professional who understands the specific challenges associated with head and neck cancer. They offer support, guidance, and expertise to improve communication, swallowing, and overall quality of life during and after treatment. Their specialized skills and personalized care greatly contribute to a collaborative care team, allowing for a smoother recovery journey and improved outcomes for the patient.

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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