If you have problems chewing or swallowing

Chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments for head or neck cancer can affect the cells in the lining of the throat. This can make it painful to chew or swallow. An infection in your mouth or throat, such as thrush, can also make chewing and swallowing uncomfortable.

Let your doctor or dietitian know if you are having any difficulties. If you find that drinks make you cough, you should tell your doctor or specialist nurse as soon as possible. A speech and language therapist (SLT) can advise you about swallowing problems.

Tips for coping with difficulties chewing or swallowing

  • You may find that taking painkillers before meals can help you chew and swallow more easily. Your doctor or nurse can suggest what might be best for you to take.
  • Keep eating your favourite foods when possible. You could try cooking them in sauces and gravies.
  • Finely chop meat and vegetables, then casserole or stew them.
  • Cut the crusts off bread for softer sandwiches.
  • If you have a blender, you could liquidise cooked foods.
  • Some frozen-meal home-delivery companies have a soft-food range on their menu.
  • There are several food supplements that you may find helpful, for example Complan® drinks. You can buy these from your chemist or supermarket. Your doctor may give you a prescription for some of them. Your GP or dietitian can explain which food supplements might be best for you.

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