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patient education : 16096--Head and Neck Cancer: Swallowing

Information from Therapy Services about how to manage swallow problems (dysphagia)

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PDF document icon PE16096_eng_HeadNeckCancerSwallowing.pdf — PDF document, 38 KB (39766 bytes)
  1. document content:

    Head & Neck Cancer: Swallowing 

    Many people diagnosed with a cancer in the mouth, throat, or neck experience changes in how they swallow foods, drinks and saliva. These changes can occur as a result of the cancer itself or due to side effects of the treatment for the cancer, and may occur before, during and after the cancer is diagnosed and treated.

    Common symptoms of swallowing problems (called “dysphagia”) may include:

    • Painful swallowing or chewing
    • Mouth sores and redness, burning pain in the mouth and throat
    • Feeling like the food is stuck in the mouth, throat or chest
    • Coughing or choking while drinking or eating
    • Changes in taste
    • Dry mouth
    • Fatigue with swallowing foods and drinks

    Nausea is a side effect associated with some chemotherapy and can limit a person’s appetite and ability to eat or drink.

    These symptoms may vary depending on your treatment stage, the extent of the cancer, and how your body responds to the treatment. Everyone responds differently.

    Some people are able to eat and drink enough by mouth to maintain their nutrition needs during treatment, while others may need to use a feeding tube to assist with nutrition. Swallowing liquids and foods during treatment can improve your post-treatment swallowing recovery.

    Your surgeon, radiation and medical oncologists, speech-pathologist, dietician and nurses can help you to decide how to best address these issues.

    Maintaining your body’s nutrition and hydration needs is very important to your recovery during and after treatment, so speak with your team about selecting foods, drinks, medication and strategies to maximize your ability to swallow and maintain adequate nutrition throughout all stages of treatment.

    For more information

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