Home > Common Causes > Cancer as a Cause of Speech Disorder

Cancer as a Cause of Speech Disorder

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 7 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Cancer Speech Speech Disorder Speech

Cancer can affect many different parts of the body, but when it affects the mouth and/or larynx it can impede an individual's ability to speak. Even when caught early, mouth and/or larynx cancer may require treatments that also affect vocal abilities and leave individuals with speech difficulties or disorders.

While speech therapists can help individuals to work around these new obstacles, it may be that these cancers affect an individual's speech permanently and require him or her to ultimately change their verbal styles or patterns in order to communicate most effectively.

Mouth Cancer and Speech

"Mouth cancer" is an umbrella term that typically includes the cancers of the soft tissues of the mouth and neck. This includes cancers of the tongue, lips, throat and salivary glands as well as cancers of the pharynx, larynx, sinus and other areas of the head and neck. Mouth cancer has a high mortality rate, with over 50% of deaths occurring despite the fact that the individual involved had some form of treatment.

Many of the symptoms of mouth cancer, including oral sores, lumps or growths on the soft tissues, trouble with swallowing, numbness, swelling and hoarseness, can effect an individual's speech. In fact, changes to an individual's speech due to any of these symptoms should be taken as a warning sign and the individual should see a doctor immediately.

Cancer of the Larynx and Speech

Though cancer of the larynx is classified as a mouth cancer, or a cancer of the head and neck, it is often singled out in discussions of cancer and speech because the larynx in the voicebox.

This is a rare type of cancer that overwhelmingly affects men. Symptoms of laryngeal cancer are often those that affect speech, including prolonged hoarseness or huskiness of the voice, difficulty swallowing, a feeling of a large lump in the throat, shortness of breath and bad breath that can make individuals shy about opening their mouth in front of others. Laryngectomy, or the removal of the voicebox, is a common way to treat cancer of the larynx.

Cancer Treatments and Speech

Removal of the soft tissues of the mouth or throat, including the voicebox, is one way to treat cancer in these areas. This will obviously affect an individual's ability to speak. Swelling from surgery and the removal of teeth in order to better treat the cancer can also interfere with an individual's speech.

A speech and language therapist will be able to help individuals find new ways to speak, and even the removal of the voicebox leaves individuals with options. Transoesophageal puncture, "swallowing air" in order to speak and the use of an electronic larynx are all options for those who have lost their voice due to cancer and/or it's treatments.

Cancers of the head and neck are serious, and often both the symptoms and treatments impeded an individual's verbal speech. However, there are many treatments for individuals with cancers of the head and neck and even those who require the removal of their voicebox have options on how to continue with verbal communication. Working with speech and language therapists will help individuals to regain their vocal abilities or find new means of communication.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Roxy
    Re: Developmental Disabilities and Speech Difficulties
    It all started on day when I was 4 or 5 years,old in the early 1980s. I was to take a nap &I didn't…
    16 March 2020
  • Vanni
    Re: What to With Problems Pronouncing 'Sh' and 'Ch'?
    Im 17 years old and I had speech from the age to 2-15 and the problems I had with the letters CH SH H…
    18 February 2020
  • Roxy
    Re: Dysprosody
    It's been 39 years ago since I had the accident that affect my frontal lobe area & caused me to have DYSPROSODY. Well when I was 4 years back in 1980…
    14 January 2020
  • Big.
    Re: What is Backing Disorder?
    Shar, you are exactly correct. It is all over TV, especially in news departments. Had to listen to Michelle Obama for 8 years talk…
    7 January 2020
  • Shar
    Re: What is Backing Disorder?
    I noticed so many people on television with the S backing and it drives me nuts but my friend says it's a speech impediment and they…
    9 December 2019
  • Kathy
    Re: Auditory Verbal Therapy
    What kind of treatment and needed to help his disorder How to explain why he needs get treatment How it help him in life Katheen…
    15 October 2018
  • Jen
    Re: Expressive Language Disorder
    @seaside123 - have to been to see your doctor because your doctor will help you and refer you to the right counselling for you :(
    31 May 2018