Head and Neck Cancer

The Macmillan Speech and Language Therapy service for head and neck cancer provides assessment, therapy and advice for adults with communication and swallowing difficulties arising as a consequence of the cancer and/or its treatment.

The speech and language therapists are involved in your care throughout the entire cancer pathway. 

How can speech and language therapy help?

The speech and language therapy team are involved with head and neck cancer patients from the point of diagnosis, throughout their acute cancer treatment, and for up to five years following completion of treatment. 

Individuals due to undergo surgical and/or oncological treatment will be seen by the speech and language therapist within a multi-professional clinic prior to treatment. 

  • In this clinic communication and swallow function may be assessed. 
  • A detailed explanation regarding the patient’s type of cancer and its treatment may also be provided (with specific reference to the impact on communication and swallow function). This will cover both short-term immediate effects of treatment as well as discussing some longer term outcomes. 

The head and neck speech and language therapy team also provide support for patients who experience late onset difficulties as a result of their treatment for cancer (these difficulties can occur five or more years after successful head and neck cancer treatment).

These difficulties may include:

  • Trismus (limited jaw mobility)
  • Swallowing difficulties following Radiotherapy
  • Speech difficulties following surgery for Head and Neck Cancer. 

Individuals may require a single speech therapy appointment only, or they may require a number of treatment sessions. The head and neck speech and language therapists can accommodate all individual patient needs. 

Speech and language therapists are also key workers for patients who have had their voice box removed due to their cancer. This is known as a total laryngectomy:

  • The speech and language therapists teach laryngectomy patients how to care for their airway and neck stoma (including emergency airway procedures). 
  • Many laryngectomy patients communicate with a voice prosthesis. Speech therapists are responsible for inserting and changing these voice prostheses. 
  • Speech therapists also teach patients how to talk with this voice prosthesis, and how to undertake cleaning and maintenance of this voice device. 
  • The team can also deliver specialist training for community staff, carers and/or family who may be involved with an individual’s laryngectomy care. 

The Macmillan Aftercare Rehabilitation Service (MARS) provides specialist support for patients living with and beyond head and neck cancer for continued support closer to home. This outreach service covers consultant clinics at Royal Surrey, Frimley, Basingstoke, Ashford, St Peter’s and East Surrey hospitals. 

How are referrals received?

The majority of referrals received are made directly from the head and neck cancer multidisciplinary team meeting which is held on a weekly basis. 

GPs can also make referrals into this service. 

Urgent inpatient referrals will typically be seen on the same day as the referral. 

Contact us

Telephone: 01483 571 122

Extension: 6421