Swallowing Evaluation after Surgery for Head and Neck Cancer

Cesar Ruiz, MA
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
Is it common for all patients to have a swallowing evaluation done after neck cancer surgery?

Cesar Ruiz, MA, Speech Pathologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Although we can not comment on a specific cancer diagnosis or surgery, since none is mentioned in your question, we can give general guidelines which are in place here at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). Here at HUP we try to see everyone having head and neck cancer surgery preoperatively and then post operatively. A swallowing evaluation is performed before oral feeding is initiated after surgery. If they are going to have radiation treatment, patients will be referred back to us should any dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing) develop. We believe that even if the surgery is small, the overall speech and swallowing systems may be affected. Therefore an evaluation may be warranted to assure that the patient will use the systems to the best of his/her abilities, as well as be able to maintain the systems in shape through exercises.