Otolaryngology & Communication Sciences

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Head and neck cancer and its treatment can result in difficulty speaking, breathing, and/or swallowing. Speech-Language Pathologists in the Center for Communication and Swallowing Disorders are part of a multidisciplinary team dedicated to preserving and/or restoring function and quality of life through education and timely intervention. 


The Oral Health Initiative is a program designed to monitor the patient’s functional status before, during and after treatment and includes:

• Assessment of overall functional skills, mouth and throat dryness, and quality of life.
• Referral to support services as needed.
• Scheduled appointments at key intervals for up to one year post treatment.

Pre-treatment counseling is provided to adequately prepare the patient for their cancer journey. It includes:

• Individualized education about the potential side effects of chemotherapy and/or radiation and instruction on strategies to minimize the long term  effects of treatments.
• Education to improve understanding of anticipated surgical changes that might affect speech, voice, or swallowing and explanation of the rehabilitation process.


Videofluorographic Swallow Study: A moving x-ray of swallowing is used to evaluate function and the effects of strategies on function. Swallow study results guide diet recommendations and therapy planning. A treatment plan is developed with the patient and may include biofeedback, exercise, and home programming.

Trismus Management: Decreased mouth opening is a serious condition that is often an overlooked side effect of treatment. A comprehensive jaw rehabilitation program is needed to gently stretch connective tissue and strengthen weakened muscles.

Tracheoesophageal Puncture (TEP) Management:  TEP surgery is performed to restore voice after complete removal of the larynx (voice box). A new voice is produced by vibrating tissue in the throat. TEP patients are seen regularly to manage the voice prosthesis that channels air for speaking.

Videostroboscopy: Head and neck cancer treatments can affect voice quality. Videostroboscopy is a procedure used to evaluate the structure and movement of the vocal cords. Interpretation of test findings directs the focus of therapy and can be helpful in evaluating progress.  Also see our Professional Voice Program page.


The Head and Neck Cancer Support Group meets monthly in the Clinical Cancer Center and provides emotional, social and educational support for cancer patients and their family and friends.


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Head and Neck Support Group

Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer


© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 10/03/2014