This is a specialist area wherein the speech and language therapist works to support people with a diagnosis of primary brain tumour who are experiencing difficulties with their communication and swallowing.
Tumours of the brain & central nervous system are rare but affect physical, psychological and cognitive function and can significantly shorten life expectancy in some cases.
The extent to which communication or swallow may be affected largely depends upon the location of the tumour within the brain. For example, a tumour within the left temporal lobe of the brain will impact an individual’s understanding and use of language.
The speech and language therapist plays a crucial role in the screening, assessment and support for functional difficulties that may arise throughout treatment.
This also includes rehabilitation of communication to maximise potential function and reduce the disabling effects of neurosurgery, oncological treatment and progression of disease.
The speech and language therapist will work with individuals to provide alternative means of presenting information in order to enable those with communication difficulties to access information on their diagnosis, treatment and prognosis.
They will also provide assessment and trials of augmentative and alternative communication aids (AAC), so that individuals may continue to express their needs and wishes.
The neuro-oncology speech and language therapist works closely with patients, families and carers for communication partner training to help maintain effective communication as patients approach end of life. They can also play an important role in assessments of capacity needed for consent to treatment and signing of wills or power of attorney documentation.
The neuro-oncology speech and language therapist will also assess and monitor swallow function throughout the treatment process and during end of life care to ensure patients can continue to eat and drink as normally as possible, for as long as possible.
Referrals are predominantly received through the multidisciplinary neuro-oncology team and are discussed through multi-professional meetings which are held on a weekly basis.
Individuals or family members of the person with a primary brain tumour may also refer into the speech and language therapy service if a change in their swallow function or communication arises due to disease progression or treatment effects.