Cancer is something no one wants to deal with.
Not many people, however, will remain untouched by it in their lives.
Whether it’s a close friend, family member, or dealing with it oneself, cancer is a fact of life most of us will have to face at some point.
And after all of the treatments and radiations are done, there are often side effects which can affect your life for years to come.
If you’re dealing with throat cancer, one of these long term implications could be changes to your voice.
Treatments for cancers that develop in your throat, including the larynx can change your voice, and may affect your ability to speak – and a part of recovery is re-learning how to speak.
We’re District Speech, and if you’re looking for Washington DC speech therapy to help restore your voice after dealing with laryngeal cancer, we can help.
What Is Your Larynx?
Also called the “voice box”, the larynx is an organ located in the top of the neck between the base of the tongue and the trachea.
It contains the vocal folds, which have three important functions, which are:
- Protection against choking by preventing foreign objects from entering the lungs through choking and other reflexes.
- Regulation of air flow into the lungs.
- Generation of sound and speech, including the manipulation of pitch and volume through vibration.
What Is Laryngeal Cancer?
Laryngeal cancer is when cancer forms on the vocal folds, or other areas of the larynx.
In most cases, laryngeal cancer forms in the thin, flat cells which line the inside of the larynx.
What Causes Laryngeal Cancer?
Some factors which can increase your risk of laryngeal cancer include:
- Acid reflux
- Being a smoker and general use of tobacco products
- Heavy drinking
- Poor diet and nutrition
- Weakened immune system
- Exposure to toxins and chemicals such as paint fumes
Symptoms Of Laryngeal Cancer
Some signs to watch for which could indicate the presence of laryngeal cancer include:
- Chronic earache
- Unexplained weight loss
- Change in voice, hoarse voice
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling a lump in your throat
- Bad breath
- Feeling short of breath
- Chest infection
- Severe cough
- Chronic cough
- Sore throat which does not go away
How Can A Speech Therapist Help With Laryngeal Cancer?
If you are diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, some of the treatments you receive may result in changes to the way you speak.
A speech therapist can help you understand the changes which will occur when you undergo treatment, and work with you to relearn how to speak.
The three main ways of doing this include esophageal speech, artificial larynx, and tracheoesophageal puncture.
Let’s look at each of these.
This is similar to a burp – you take air into your mouth, hold it in your throat and let it out.
When air travels through your mouth, it causes vibration in the upper portion of the esophagus, creating sound.
Esophageal speech takes a lot of practice, but a speech therapist can work with you to help make the process of learning easier.
Tracheoesophageal Puncture, or TEP
If your cancer treatment requires complete removal of the larynx, you may need a tracheoesophageal puncture (TEP).
This is a small hole in the neck between the esophagus and airway, which is fitted for a valve which can be used for breathing and speaking.
Your speech therapist can help you learn to speak through the TEP, and how to properly care for it.
An artificial larynx is a small electronic device which vibrates.
It’s placed directly on the neck, under the chin when you want to speak.
Practice is required because the speech sounds it makes often sound mechanical, so you need to practice speaking clearly.
It can be used as a primary way to communicate, or sometimes in addition to other options.
Book An Appointment With District Speech
Have you been diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, and are worried about the implications of treatment and surgeries for the way you will communicate in the future?
Do you want to learn more about options for speech therapy treatment which will help you learn to speak again once you undergo radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery?
Are you worried that you will lose your ability to communicate with others if you require a laryngectomy?
Don’t worry – you’re not alone, and there are others who have gone through what you’re facing.
We’re District Speech, speech therapists servicing Washington DC and the surrounding area.
We’ve helped others regain their voice after treatments for throat cancer, and we can help you too.
Contact us today for more information, or to set up an appointment or consultation.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.