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Speech & Language Therapists

About Us- Head & Neck Oncology Speech & Language Therapists

Speech & Language Therapists have wide ranging roles in supporting patients with Head & Neck Cancer across the entire care pathway. We have in-depth and specialist knowledge of changes to basic functions such as speech, voice and swallowing, either as a result of the tumour or as a side effect of treatment. Our expertise is essential for helping patients maximise their function, as well as addressing the psychosocial impact, in order to achieve optimal quality of life outcomes, as core members of the multi-disciplinary team.


What is the role of the Head & Neck Oncology Speech & Language Therapist?

.         We support patients and their families pre-treatment, with decisions regarding their treatment pathway, managing expectations for the challenges ahead, ensuring their communication and understanding is sufficient for this process, and their current oral intake is safe and manageable as well as offering strategies to maintain function.

·         We conduct clinical assessments of voice, speech and swallowing, and collect outcome measures including patient reported tools such as questionnaires. Speech and Language Therapists use instrumental assessments, where appropriate - for a detailed examination of swallowing and voice. Examples of these include Video-fluoroscopy (VF- swallow) and Fibre-optic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES) and Video-stroboscopy (voice). In a small number of UK centres, Speech & Language Therapists may lead Cancer Surveillance clinics, as negotiated at local level.

·         We provide specialist treatment and management of communication and swallowing problems, tailored to the individual. We have expertise in laryngectomy rehabilitation, including pulmonary rehabilitation, surgical voice restoration and oesophageal speech. We address a range of communication issues, such as maximising speech intelligibility, advising on selection and implementation of communication aids. Swallowing rehabilitation may include exercises or postural advice, advice on optimal food textures as well as ways of living with the consequences of dysphagia.   

·         We are core members of the Head & Neck Oncology MDT, contributing to discussions around treatment plans and rehabilitation. We are involved in joint clinics such as surgical voice restoration trouble shooting clinics, and combined dysphagia and nutrition clinics.

·         We are involved in the Cancer Survivorship strategy, including adjusting to potentially long lasting effects of treatment. We often sign-post patients to relevant support groups and resources.

·         We provide additional assessment, treatment and management of any potential late treatment effects, affecting speech, voice and/or swallowing, which may occur several years following treatment. 

·         We offer support and follow up to patients on the best supportive care pathway on both an inpatient and outpatient basis.

·         We train specialist and non-specialist staff, and act as a resource for multi-disciplinary team colleagues on all aspects of eating, drinking and communication support for patients with Head & Neck Cancer.

·         We initiate and contribute towards audits, service evaluations and research at local and national level in order to develop evidence based practice and guidelines.


Key Links:

RCSLT Commissioning Guidelines

NICE Guidelines