Depending on the treatment and side effects, a patient’s ability to swallow, speak or eat may be compromised post-treatment. Chemoradiation therapy may be associated with long-term deficits in swallowing. Therefore, even after rehabilitation, a clinician may recommend speech and swallowing evaluations as part of the follow-up assessments.

Swallowing rehabilitation

Swallowing function can be impaired after surgery, radiation therapy or chemoradiation therapy.

Swallowing deficits can have a profound impact on eating. In one 2008 review, 56 percent of patients who received chemoradiation therapy did not have a normal diet one year post-therapy.

Rehabilitation can include any of the following types of exercises: swallow maneuvers, such as effortful swallow or Mendelsohn maneuver (prolonged swallow), range of motion exercises (e.g., jaw, tongue), tongue strengthening exercises and tactile stimulation.

Speech rehabilitation

Working with a speech/swallowing therapist may improve a patient’s ability to speak.

Depending on the changes that occurred to the patient’s anatomy (i.e., decrease in size of muscles, surgical removal of structures), your loved one may require voice rehabilitation. It has been reported that between 34 and 70 percent of head and neck cancer survivors develop speech impairment. The cancer care team can use a wide variety of tools for voice rehabilitation, which range from the use of prosthetic devices to facilitate vocalization or surgical reconstruction.


Your loved one may require prosthetics to restore function or appearance, such as an electronic voice, dental prosthetics or glass eyes. He or she may need some training and rehabilitation to properly use and care for a prosthetic device. Prosthetics sometimes require adjustments, periodic replacement, upgrades or continued training to use properly or solve problems.

They teach you how to swallow all over again, but in the correct way.Barry W. (palatomaxillary and low grade adenocarcinoma of minor salivary gland cancer survivor)