Cancer Coaching- Dysphagia, Xerostoma Therapy

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Dysphagia is the medical term for the symptom of difficulty in swallowing.[1][2] Although classified under “symptoms and signs” in ICD-10,[3] the term is sometimes used as a condition in its own right.[4][5][6] 

I would like to share my recent experience. I was diagnosed with lymphoma in my throat in 1996. I was treated with chemo and radiation. Now 20 years later I noticed that I was having problems swallowing solid food. After several tests including endoscopies, CAT scans, biopsies, etc. it was determined that there was fibrosis from the radiation (dysphagia).

I recently began physical therapy including myofascial release massage therapy. I am hoping that it helps release the swallow muscles so I can enjoy food again. I wanted to share this experience so that others with the same issue do not have to go through several months of tests when it should’ve been determined sooner that it was fibrosis from radiation. I believe the sooner he PT starts, the better the results will be. Irene

Thanks for your post Irene. Yes, the radiation to your neck area could cause a long-term, late stage side effect called dysphagia (difficulty swallowing).  I had a fair amount of radiation to my C5 area after I had a lesion removed from that ara.

I’ve been doing neck exercises for the past 5 or so years. Though I don’t believe my swallowing muscles will ever be 100%, I do think that my daily Shaker exercise routine will enable me to live and swallow pretty normally for the rest of my life.

I recommend the Shaker Exercise. Here are several videos to demonstrate.

I have xerostoma aka dry mouth as well. I had about six months of acupuncture making this long-term side effect managable.

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It sounds as though you had to work hard to figure out a side effect of oncological treatment that you should have been made aware of by your doctors years before. Maybe I am thinking this way because of my own frustration with my own late stage side effects that I also had to identify and treat on my own.

Either way, thanks for posting and I hope your PT helps you enjoy foods once again.

David Emerson

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