Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is when moving food and liquids through the mouth and to the stomach can be painful and make swallowing impossible. One person in 25 is likely to experience some form of dysphagia in their lifetime. In fact, some swallowing disorders affect up to 15 million adults in the United States.
One-third of post-surgery head & neck cancer patients have pain and discomfort when swallowing.
Swallowing problems like dysphagia commonly develop after vital head and neck cancer treatments. For example, oral surgery could lead to difficulty controlling one’s mouth and trouble chewing. Whereas throat surgery, specifically a laryngectomy (voice box removal), could make it difficult to move food and drink from the mouth to the esophagus.
head & neck
Patients who experience pain and discomfort when swallowing that may impact their health. In addition to receiving a limited amount of nutrients, patients with symptoms of dysphagia may struggle with feeling isolated from participating in normal mealtimes. Depression and low self-esteem are common secondary effects of this disorder.
After surgery, it is important for patients to find a speech-language pathologist and create a treatment plan. With a little help, patients can relearn mouth muscle exercises for chewing and swallowing, personalized swallowing strategies and easier ways to sit or stand when eating.