Changes to speech after treatment for head and neck cancer
Any change to your lips, teeth, tongue or soft palate is likely to make your speech sound different.
This video shows some different methods for speech restoration after surgery for head and neck cancer, and shows Mick after his surgery.
The information in this video was correct as of 1 July 2011.
Please tell us what you think of our videos.
This may mean that you have difficulty making one or two specific sounds or saying some words. It may sometimes be more severe, so people can’t easily understand what you’re trying to say.
For some people, a change in their voice will only be a minor, temporary problem and their speech will return to normal, or near normal, as the tissues heal. For others, it will be more of a problem and will cause permanent changes to the way they speak.
Losing the ability to talk, even temporarily, can be frightening and frustrating. However, a speech and language therapist will be involved in your recovery from an early stage and will be able to give support and helpful advice.
Speech therapy can help you learn to communicate in the clearest and most effective way. Therapy usually begins as soon as possible after surgery and normally continues after you go home. It’s likely to involve exercises to improve the range and strength of mouth and tongue movements, or to find new ways to produce speech sounds. If you wear dentures, they may need to be changed. Sometimes, an individually designed prosthesis needs to be made to improve your speech.
There are also special aids that your speech and language therapist will discuss with you, if necessary.
Adjusting to your changed speech or voice will take time for you, and your family and friends. The reactions of strangers may be harder to get used to, but will get easier. It often helps if you can put people at ease by simply explaining that you have had an operation that has made it difficult for you to talk.
Our section on changes in communication has more information about treatments and tips to help you cope with speech problems.