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Regional Cancer Center

Rehabilitation Helpful for Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Patients

Rehabilitation Helpful for Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Patients Any cancer that arises in the head or neck region of the body—including the nasal cavity, salivary glands, throat, voice box or oral cavity—is classified as oral, head and neck cancer. Depending on the location of the cancer, treatment can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy or, for some patients, surgery.

Stacey Brill, speech pathologist, says there are a number of side effects that oral, head and neck cancer patients may experience. Examples include:

  • Xerostomia, also known as dry mouth
  • Thick and copious secretions
  • Swallowing difficulties—patients may have feeding tubes
  • Changes in taste
  • Trismus, or the reduced opening of the oral cavity
  • Voice and speech deficits
  • Reduced range of motion of the cervical spine
  • Lymphedema, or swelling, of the neck and face
  • Fibrosis, or stiffness, in the neck
  • Fatigue

“There is a specific pathway for oral, head and neck cancer patients,” Stacey explains. “We want to provide as much education as possible, so patients see a nurse navigator, oncology dietitian, speech pathologist and physical therapist. Together, we all identify and address the patient’s needs prior to, throughout and after treatment.”

Patients also may be referred to the Survivorship Training and Rehab (STAR) Program® from Massachusetts-based Oncology Rehab Partners, which now is available at the Regional Cancer Center. Together, a variety of specially trained, STAR Certified™ professionals develop individualized rehabilitation plans. The STAR Program® provides evidence-based protocols for cancer patients—whether newly- diagnosed, currently going through treatment or those who have lived for years as a sur vivor.

The oral, head and neck cancer pathway, and the entire STAR Program®, helps ensure that patients have a team of professionals following them throughout their treatment and addressing all of their needs.

To learn more about the oral, head and neck cancer pathway, contact Stacey Brill at 239-343-1645 or Stacey.Brill@LeeMemorial.org. If you are interested in learning more about the STAR Program®, contact Marie Hepp at 239-343-9511 or Marie.Hepp@LeeMemorial.org.

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“We want to provide as much education as possible, so patients see a nurse navigator, oncology dietitian, speech pathologist and physical therapist. Together, we all identify and address the patient’s needs prior to, throughout and after treatment,” Stacey Brill says.


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Regional Cancer Center
8931 Colonial Center Drive, Suite 200
Fort Myers, FL 33905
239-343-9560

*An outpatient department of Lee Memorial Hospital

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