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Swallowing Difficulties (Dysphagia)

Dysphagia is defined as difficulty swallowing. Impairments can arise in the mouth (oral cavity), the throat (pharynx) or the esophagus.
Signs of swallowing problems
  • The need to swallow extra times to clear food from the mouth and throat
  • Taking longer to finish a meal
  • The sensation of food or fluid stuck in your throat
  • Having to avoid or adapt certain foods to make swallowing easier
  • A gurgly, wet-sounding voice after swallowing
  • Coughing or choking during or after meals
  • Throat clearing while eating
What causes swallowing difficulties?
  • In patients with cancer, swallowing difficulties are most often related to the impact of the tumour itself or a result of the cancer treatment (radiation, surgery or chemotherapy)
  • For example, in head and neck cancer, swallowing difficulties can be caused by presence of a tumour in the mouth or throat that impedes the movement of food or fluids, as well as treatment side effects such as swelling, dry mouth and pain. Swallowing difficulties can also be a long term side effect of surgery or radiation treatment
What can you do?
  • If you are showing signs of swallowing problems, speak to your doctor about your symptoms
  • The EAT-10 (PDF) is a simple survey that can help you decide if you might need further assessment/treatment for a swallowing difficulty. Scoring over three points indicates that you made need assistance
  • There are no one size fits all swallowing treatments. Each person is different. A Speech-Language Pathologist can fully assess and help treat/manage swallowing challenges
  • If you are having trouble maintaining your weight due to your swallowing difficulty, you may benefit from seeing a Registered Dietitian

See BC Cancer Library Dysphagia (Difficulty Swallowing) Pathfinder for recommended websites, books, handouts and support services.

SOURCE: Swallowing Difficulties (Dysphagia) ( )
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