How Can A Speech Therapist Help With Laryngeal Cancer?

How Can A Speech Therapist Help With Laryngeal Cancer? | Voz Speech Therapy Services Bilingual Speech Therapist Clinic Washington DC

Your larynx is an important part of your body that allows you to produce speech and communicate.

It also helps you swallow while you eat or drink.

Laryngeal cancer is a type of cancer that affects your larynx and can impact your speech.

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming, especially when it affects your ability to communicate.

The good news is that we can help.

At Voz Speech Therapy, we offer speech therapy in DC and can help address your speech related difficulties during and after laryngeal cancer treatment.

For your convenience we offer both in person and remote speech therapy services through speech teletherapy.

Before we dive into laryngeal cancer, let’s do a quick recap about what your larynx is and its role in speech.

RECAP: What Is Your Larynx?

Your larynx is a hollow tube that acts as a barrier between your trachea, or windpipe, and your esophagus.

You use it every time you swallow food or drink water.

It keeps food and other particles from getting into your respiratory system, which is responsible for your breathing.

Your larynx also houses your vocal cords, which is the part of your body that allows you to speak and make sounds.

This includes vocal speech and singing.

Your larynx is a complex part of your body that’s made up of many different types of tissues and parts.

We wrote an article about this last time, which you can take a look at if you want to learn more about what the larynx is and what conditions can affect it.

One of which is laryngeal cancer.

RELATED: Understanding How Your Larynx Works

What Is Laryngeal Cancer?

Laryngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that affects your larynx.

It occurs when the cells in your larynx begin to grow uncontrollably and invade and damage different tissues.

You can get laryngeal cancer in any part of your larynx, including the supraglottis, glottis, and subglottis.

One in three laryngeal cancers start in your supraglottis, and more than half of laryngeal cancers start in your glottis.

The sub glottis sees the lowest rate of cancers, with only five percent of laryngeal cancer cases starting there.

How To Know If You Have Laryngeal Cancer?

Symptoms of laryngeal cancer can be difficult to catch early on because they are easily mistaken for other conditions.

For example, a common early symptom is vocal hoarseness that doesn’t improve after a couple of weeks.

It’s easy to think that it’s just a cold causing the symptom, but if it lingers too long, it’s a good idea to get it checked out.

Some other early symptoms can include:

  • Pain or difficulty when feeding and swallowing
  • Coughing that doesn’t improve
  • Soreness in your throat that doesn’t improve
  • A noticeable lump in your neck or throat
  • Difficulty making vocal sounds
  • Ear pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you experience trouble breathing, noisy and high pitched breathing, coughing up blood, or feeling like something is in your throat, it’s recommended to seek medical help immediately.

How Do You Get Laryngeal Cancer?

Like many cancers, there are certain behaviors that can increase your risk of getting it.

For laryngeal cancer, the most common risk factors include:

  • Age – your risk increases after the age of 55
  • Sex – people assigned male at birth are at a higher risk
  • History – if you’ve had a head or neck cancer before there is a 25% risk you will get it again
  • Job – certain professions can expose you to toxic substances that increase your risk of developing laryngeal cancer

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Common substance exposures that can increase your risk of developing laryngeal cancer include:

  • Sulfuric acid mist
  • Wood Dust
  • Nickel
  • Asbestos
  • Manufacturing mustard gas

There are also certain lifestyle choices that can increase your risk of developing laryngeal cancer.

These include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Drinking high amounts of alcohol daily
  • Not eating a balanced diet
  • Acid reflux or GERD
  • Getting the human papillomavirus, or HPV

How Can A Speech Therapist Help With Laryngeal Cancer?

While laryngeal cancer can be life changing, speech therapists can help you both during and after your cancer treatment.

Having your speech affected can be overwhelming, and you may be wondering how exactly speech therapy can help you.

There are two important ways that speech therapists can help, which is why speech therapy is often included as part of your healthcare team when you get diagnosed with laryngeal cancer.

Let’s take a closer look at the two ways speech therapy can help.

RELATED: Speech Therapy For Adults

1. Treating Swallowing Issues

One of the two main areas a speech therapist can help you with is improving your swallowing, which can be a common challenge after your cancer treatment.

Their target goal will be to improve your chewing and swallowing abilities.

To do so, your speech therapist will create a tailored treatment plan after evaluating you after your cancer treatment.

This treatment plan will include a set of muscular exercises that target your chewing and swallowing muscles.

They’ll also teach you how to sit or hold your head when you eat and drink, along with strategies to improve your swallowing, while keeping your safety in mind.

Your speech therapist may also recommend dietary changes.

This can include eating softer foods or drinking thicker drinks to help you swallow with a reduced risk of choking.

RELATED: Speech Therapy For Adults With Feeding And Swallowing Disorders

2. Treating Vocal Weakness

The other important thing your speech therapist can help you with is treating your vocal weakness.

Vocal weakness can be a common symptom after your cancer treatment.

Your speech therapist can run you through the options available to help with your voice and speech difficulties.

If there’s damage to your larynx, then voice therapy can help.

But remember to commit to your treatment plan and practice outside of therapy sessions in order to see the most benefit.

Another common problem is slurred speech or articulation issues.

Your speech therapist can teach you tongue strengthening exercises to help with that.

RELATED: Speech Therapy For Voice Disorders

What Is Laryngeal Cancer? | Voz Speech Therapy Services Bilingual Speech Therapist Clinic Washington DC

How Can A Speech Therapist Help After A Laryngectomy?

Even if you had a partial or total laryngectomy, a speech therapist can help.

A partial laryngectomy removes part of your larynx, which allows you to be able to speak after you heal.

A total laryngectomy removes your entire larynx, which means that you will not be able to speak or make sounds without body modifications.

Your therapist will educate you about your larynx, and how your surgery will change it.

They can also walk you through the healing process and what communication options you have post surgery.

Your speech therapist will evaluate your speaking ability and tailor their approach accordingly.

Keep in mind that whichever type of surgery you get, you will not be able to speak right after the procedure.

In the meantime, to help facilitate your healing, your speech therapist will help you communicate using different options like a picture board, pen and paper, or a tablet.

Once healed, your therapist will work with you to find communication alternatives.

There are three main choices for you to consider.

RELATED: Who Needs An AAC Device And What Do They Do?

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Artificial Larynx or Electrolarynx

An artificial larynx, or electrolarynx, is an electronic device that vibrates when on.

It can be placed against your neck or in a small tube in your mouth and helps you speak.

An electrolarynx can take a bit of practice before you’re able to speak clearly with it.

If you decide to go with this option, your speech therapist will work with you to teach you how to use the device to communicate more effectively.

Esophageal Speech

Esophageal speech requires a lot of practice, and could be an option depending on the surgery or cancer treatment you’ve had.

Your speech therapist will teach you to speak by trapping air in your esophagus and pushing it back up through your throat to form words.

This process is similar to what happens when you burp.

As the air leaves your mouth, it vibrates the upper part of your esophagus, creating sound.

Tracheoesophageal Puncture

A tracheoesophageal puncture is a surgical procedure where a hole is made between your airway and esophagus.

A small speaking valve is placed in this hole, which is also called a stoma.

You can also breathe through this hole.

To speak, your speech therapist will teach you how to use a hands free device, or to physically cover up the hole to speak.

Covering the stoma causes the air from your lungs to go into the valve in your esophagus, which then vibrates and creates sound.

Your speech therapist will also teach you how to care and maintain your valve.

Book Your Appointment With Voz Speech Therapy Today

There are a number of different ways that a speech therapist can support your treatment and recovery from laryngeal cancer.

They are an integral part of your care team and will help you relearn how to communicate once you’ve recovered from the disease.

At Voz Speech Therapy, we’ll work with you to find ways for you to enhance your speech and communicate more effectively.

If you’re concerned about your larynx, or recently received a diagnosis of laryngeal cancer, we can help.

Book your appointment with Voz Speech Therapy today.

Voz Speech Therapy
1331 H St NW Ste 200,
Washington, DC 20005

(202) 734-4884

Voz Speech Therapy is a pediatric bilingual speech therapy clinic in Washington, DC that provides individualized services based on the specific needs of your or your child. Therapy sessions are provided in English or Spanish, depending on your child’s native language. Voz Speech Therapy es una clínica pediátrica bilingüe de terapia del habla en Washington, DC que brinda servicios individualizados según las necesidades específicas de usted o su hijo. Las sesiones de terapia se brindan en inglés o español, según el idioma nativo de su hijo.

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