Thursday, March 22, 2012

Head and Neck Surgery - Loss of Voice

Head and Neck cancer 2004, had surgery, chemo therapy, radiation. Over time lots of reflux, neck and shoulder discomfort, tightening of neck, mouth etc. Have steadily been losing my voice. I have a lot of accumulated mucus in my mouth and when I talk it increases. I am unable to pronounce certain letters or combination thereof. My wife tries to understand what I am saying but it is getting worse and I can't seem to do anything about it. Recently went for a doctors visit on an unrelated matter and I asked about my voice and he casually replied that he didn't think my voice would ever recover. Is there anything that I can do to improve this situation? As you can imagine that along with all the other side effects this is increasingly frustrating. Thank you in advance.

Melissa Walker, M.S., CCC-SLP writes...


The symptoms you describe are not out of the ordinary for someone who has been through surgery and chemo-radiation therapy for head and neck cancer, but there certainly are treatment options available. Neck and shoulder discomfort, typically secondary to 11th cranial nerve dysfunction following neck dissection, may be addressed by a physical therapist. Tightening of the mouth with associated speech and voice changes can be addressed in by a speech pathologist who specializes in the treatment of patients with head and neck cancer. Any treatment would be preceded by a thorough evaluation. Here at the Milton J. Dance Head & Neck Center at GBMC, we offer multi-disciplinary care to all head and neck cancer patients from diagnosis through survivorship. Although you may not live in an area where such a multi-disciplinary team is available, ask your physician for referrals to head and neck cancer-specific speech pathologists and physical therapists; I am sure they will have evaluation and treatment options to offer you.

Best of luck to you.