After Oral Cancer Surgery, Speech Therapy Can Help

Being diagnosed with oral cancer is scary. Having surgery to remove the cancer can be even scarier. Once you're healed, you can take a sigh of relief that, at least for now, the threat has been removed. However, adapting to changes in your mouth after surgery for oral cancer can be difficult. Fortunately, working with a speech pathologist can be really helpful during this period of recovery. Here's how.

Teaching New Ways to Make Sounds

After your mouth is changed by oral cancer surgery, it can be hard to make certain sounds. For instance, if you had surgery on the roof of your mouth, you may have trouble making the "s" sound since you need to press your tongue against the roof of your mouth in order to do so. Your speech pathologist can assess your speech to figure out what sounds you struggle with and why. They can then work with you to develop new ways to make those sounds with your changed oral structure. They may also show you exercises you can do on your own time to help improve the way you're making certain sounds.

Teaching Substitute Words

Especially in the first few months after your surgery, there may be certain words that you really struggle to say. After working with you on techniques to improve your pronunciation of these words and sounds on your own time, your therapist may help you develop some substitute words to use in public for the time being. For example, if you really struggle to say the word "hello" your therapist may have you experiment using words like "greetings" and "good day" until you find a word that you say a lot more easily and can use in place of "hello."

Regaining Strength in Various Structures

Most surgeries for oral cancer do modify the musculature around the jaw in some way. Not moving your mouth for weeks as you recover can also lead to some muscle atrophy in these areas. Your speech pathologist can help you identify which muscles need strengthening. They can then work with you on exercises to strengthen those muscles, which will allow you to improve your speech over time.

Recovering from surgery for oral cancer can be quite a process. However, working with a speech pathologist can really help ensure the process goes smoothly, and it can also ensure that when you're able to speak more clearly down the road. Contact a clinic like Eastern Carolina Ear Nose & Throat-Head for more information.