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Speech Language Pathology Services

Helping to maximize quality of life through improving swallowing and communication difficulties related to your cancer or cancer treatment.
Speech Language Pathology (SLP) services are provided to assist patients under the care of BC Cancer to maximize their communication and swallowing abilities. 

Assessment and treatment may be provided for swallowing, restricted jaw movement (trismus), swelling (lymphedema), speech, language, voice or cognitive disorders that arise as a result of cancer or cancer treatments.

SLP's work with patients to assess and treat swallowing difficulties. SLPs specialize in the management and treatment of swallowing problems in head and neck cancer patients, and can provide specific swallowing exercises that may assist in preventing swallowing problems. SLP's also see patients with other cancer diagnoses who have swallowing difficulties.

In head and neck cancer, the SLP is involved from diagnosis through treatment and onwards. Radiation treatment (with or without chemotherapy) or surgery can impact swallowing function. An SLP can help you with strategies to maximize swallow function throughout treatment, recovery and beyond.

Signs of Swallowing Problems

  • The need to swallow extra times to clear food from the mouth and throat
  • Taking longer to finish a meal 
  • A gurgly, wet-sounding voice after swallowing
  • Coughing or choking during or after meals
  • Throat clearing while eating

Having difficulty opening the mouth fully is called trismus. It is a common side effect of head and neck cancer treatment. An SLP helps patients create a customized treatment plan to help increase the ability to open the mouth for important functions such as eating, speaking, oral care and even laughing and kissing.

SLPs work with patients and their families to improve communication abilities. There are a variety of ways in which cancer and cancer treatment can impact communication. Patients may be seen by BC Cancer SLPs for this service, or referred to other specialized programs that are available. 

Here are some examples of how SLPs work with patients on communication:
  • Training patients and family on effective communication strategies for speaking with patients who have difficulty forming or understanding language
  • Therapy to improve voice quality after treatment for cancer  of the voice box
  • Helping patients access assistive communication devices such as voice amplifiers and or text-to-speech tools
  • Therapy to improve the clarity of your speech after surgery or radiation
  • Specially trained SLPs assist patients with restoring their voice after surgery to remove the voice box

Specially trained SLPs can help manage swelling (lymphedema) in your head and neck area after surgery or radiation treatment by using manual lymphatic drainage as well as teaching self-management techniques.

SOURCE: Speech Language Pathology Services ( )
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