A small study suggests that a few months of voice therapy may improve a person’s ability to speak after treatment of early-stage glottic cancer, a form of cancer that affects the vocal cords.
Past research has yielded mixed results on the effectiveness of voice therapy after treatment of tumors of the throat. In one study, patients who did not undergo voice therapy after their cancer treatment actually did better in terms of voice quality.
The new study, published in the journal Cancer, looked at 23 patients who had voice impairments after laser surgery or radiation therapy for early-stage glottic cancer.
Dr. Christine D. L. van Gogh and her colleagues at Vrije University Medical Center in Amsterdam randomly assigned the patients to a voice-therapy group or a comparison group that did not receive the therapy.
Those who underwent voice therapy had a maximum of 24 sessions with a speech-language pathologist, focusing on voice and breathing exercises to improve their vocal quality.
Overall, the patients who underwent therapy reported more improvements in their voice than the comparison group did. There were also improvements in certain objective measures of voice quality, such as vocal “jitter.”
Of the 177 patients approached to participate in this study, the researchers note, most refused to do so. This may be because of the fact that voice therapy is time-consuming, they speculate, but it could also reflect an assumption that vocal problems are an inevitable consequence of throat cancer treatment.
They recommend that people treated for early glottic cancer be assessed regularly for vocal problems, to see which patients might benefit from voice therapy.
SOURCE: Cancer, January 1, 2006.
Revision date: July 8, 2011
Last revised: by Andrew G. Epstein, M.D.