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Rehabilitation in Head Neck Cancer Patients (Occupational Therapy)

Treatment modalities have effectively increased the survival rates post head and neck cancers. But the combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery are often extensive and may affect patient's appearance, function and quality of life.

When should you consult an occupational therapist: -

  • When you have restricted jaw /mouth opening

  • When you have difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia)

  • When you have difficulty in doing shoulder and neck movements impairing your daily activities especially when doing overhead activities like dressing and grooming.

  • Fatigue, extreme lethargy and tiredness in doing smallest tasks.

  • Ergonomics and lifestyle modifications in order to optimize and help get back to the meaningful occupations.

With clinical assessments and evaluations, they assess the functional deficits and provide solutions.

Most frequent modalities of intervention (treatment methods) are:-

  • Mouth opening device and jaw opening exercises so as to overcome cosmetological problems as well as aide with oral hygiene.

  • Techniques for swallowing to overcome nutritional deficiencies so as to help the body gain nourishment efficiently.

  • Mouth and Face prosthesis (clinical and cosmetological)

  • Facial lymphedema management

  • Donor flap site mobility along with scar massage techniques

  • Deep breathing and chest clearance exercises.

  • Neck and shoulder mobility exercises for restricted movements

  • Energy conservation techniques so that the patient can perform everyday goals effectively with accurately prioritising, planning and pacing the tasks.

With proper short term and long term goal setting an occupational therapist helps the client to understand the implications of the treatment modalities and actively optimise their rehabilitation back into their communities.


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