The dysphagia and head and neck cancer team is integrally involved in caring for head and neck cancer patients at all stages of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery. The chemoradiation dysphagia program was founded in 2015 and is based on the gold standard of care implemented at institutions like Johns Hopkins, MD Anderson, and Stanford. Our multidisciplinary care team consists of ENTs, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, speech pathologists, dentists, dieticians, and nurses. Head and neck cancer can result in significant changes to swallowing, speech, and voice. Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) involvement starts with proactive swallowing evaluation and management immediately after diagnosis, and continues during and after treatment.
Following your diagnosis, your cancer doctors or ENT will refer you for a pre-radiation swallowing evaluation to test your baseline function. You will also learn about potential changes to your swallowing, voice, and speech during this session. Your SLP will give your proactive exercises and recommendations to help preserve your swallowing function during treatment.
If you receive cancer treatment at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, you will be followed weekly by an SLP. They will work with you at the Cancer Center when you are seeing your radiation doctor to continue monitoring your swallowing and supporting you during treatment.
After you finish cancer treatment, the team will continue to evaluate your swallowing and start rehabilitation as needed. Some patients may need to work towards having their feeding tube removed, or transitioning back to a more normal diet. We are here to help you meet your goals!
Following recovery and rehabilitation, our team will continue to monitor your swallowing function yearly for life. There are potential risks for late effects of cancer treatment relative to your swallowing function, so we provide proactive surveillance to catch issues early and treat them promptly. Maintaining lifelong swallowing function starts with early intervention and having the right team on your side!
Our multidisciplinary care team consists:
- Radiation oncologists - Ryan Hughes, MD; Bart Frizzell, MD
- Medical oncologists - Mercedes Porosnicu, MD; Thomas W. Lycan Jr., DO, MHS
- Speech pathologists - Julia Barry, MA, CCC-SLP; Carolyn Nguyen