After Being Diagnosed with Head and Neck Cancer: July 7, 2019
It’s a diagnosis health experts say is on the rise. “You will have approximately 500,000 new diagnoses each year. There are about $3.2B spent in the United States alone each year on head and neck cancer,” said Stacy Brill, a speech-language pathologist with Lee Health.
But what patients do after the diagnosis is important to their recovery. “You need to go see a speech pathologist, and in a patient’s mind they are speaking fine, and they are swallowing fine then, why do I need to go,” said Brill.
Speech pathologists work closely with head and neck cancer patients, educating them on early intervention to protect their speech and swallowing during treatment. “We do base line swallow function at the time of diagnosis to ensure that there is no swallowing deficit at that time. So that we can modify the diet if need be. It helps to prevent aspiration during the course of chemo and radiation,” said Brill.
85 percent of head and neck cancer patients develop a swallowing dysfunction at some point during treatment. Speech pathologists can educate patients on what signs and symptoms to look for if and when problems occur.
“Get that patient through their treatment in the easiest way possible. Give them dietary tips on things that are easy to swallow and are safe to swallow to maintain them eating and drinking as much as possible,” said Brill.
If problems like aspiration pneumonia develop during the course of chemotherapy, treatment is temporarily stopped. “Rehab plays an integral role; an important role. We can get quicker outcomes if you just come at the beginning and let us monitor you throughout the course of treatment,” said Brill.
Educating patients to make sure they have a better outcome faster.