Friday, February 27, 2015

Post Operative Symptoms / Difficulty Swallowing

In August of this year I underwent cervical laminectomy and fusion. The left side of my throat has a sensation of something being stuck when I swallow. All tests come up clear of any obstruction. Would this just leave a muscle or nerve problem? It definitely interferes with my breathing and at times more than at others. Physical activity seems to exacerbate the problem, especially if it involves using my arms lifting or pushing. Is it possible that this, with time, will ease and allow my breathing to become easier?

Barbara Messing, MA, CCC-SLP, BCS-S replies...

Thank you for posting your question to our Head and Neck Q&A forum.

The symptoms you describe are commonly listed as potential post operative symptoms that may occur up to several weeks post operatively. For persistent symptoms as you have described: difficulty breathing and the sensation of something stuck in your throat when you swallow [tightness in throat, difficulty swallowing] are symptoms that should be reevaluated by your surgeon. If difficulty breathing and tightness in your throat worsens, you should seek immediate medical assistance or call 911.

In general terms, your symptoms may be related to post operative edema/swelling, nerve injury or mechanical factors from the fusion/plate. A Modified Barium Swallow Study performed by a Speech Pathologist and Radiologist is recommended to evaluate your swallow function and assess potential impact of structural changes. Endoscopy should be performed to visualize your throat [hypopharynx]. This can be performed by a Speech Pathologist and/or an Otolaryngologist/Laryngologist [Flexible Endoscopic Evaluation .

I recommend you go to this website for further information:  There you will find patient materials that may be helpful to you.

I also recommend that you follow up with your surgeon for additional information and possible further evaluation.

Barbara Messing, MA, CCC-SLP, BCS-S
Clinical Specialist in Head & Neck Rehabilitation
Board Certified in Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Tasty Tuesdays:  Oncology Nutrition Lecture and Cooking Demonstration

As cancer treatment continues or comes to an end, you may wonder what foods you should be eating.  It may be time to develop new lifestyle behaviors in regard to nutrition and physical activity.  Join in for a monthly lecture and discussion on the importance of nutrition and physical activity in cancer recovery and prevention.  Each month, a new topic is discussed.  Topics range from choosing whole foods, sugars and sweeteners, understanding food labels and nutrition claims, use of supplements, etc.

Sessions begin at 12 pm in Physicians Pavilion West,
Third Floor Conference Room
February 10, 2015Supplements: Are they Beneficial?
March 10, 2015Food Labeling and Health Claims
April 14, 2015Meat:  How Much is too Much?
May 12, 2015Is Grilling Safe?
Sept. 8, 2015Sugar Substitutes & High Fructose Corn Syrup
October 13, 2015Good Fat vs. Bad Fat
Nov. 10, 2015Probiotics:  What Are They?
December 8, 2015Nutrition for Brain Health

This is a free patient service open to patients and family members of the Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head and Neck Center and the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute and Breast Center at GBMC.  Light fare and refreshments are served and parking is complimentary. To reserve your spot, please call:  Keri Ryniak, RD, CSO, CNSD at 443-849-8186.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Head and Neck Cancer

What are some of the risk factors for head and neck cancer?

There are a variety of risk factors for head and neck cancers. Age and lifestyle, such as alcohol and tobacco use, are the most important. However, risk factors can vary, depending on the type of cancer.

What are some of the warning signs of head and neck cancer?

Warning signs usually depend on the location of the cancer. Signs can include a sore on the lip or in the mouth that won't go away, a lump on the lip or in the mouth, difficulty or pain with swallowing or chewing and change in voice or hoarseness.

Is there a risk of disfigurement with head and neck surgery?

Reconstruction may be a part of the treatment plan and your physician will discuss treatment options with you before the surgery takes place.

Visit the Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Surgery website for more information.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mark Your Calendar for 2015 Upcoming Conferences

11th Annual Voice Conference
Advanced Topics in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Laryngeal Disorders
Laryngeal Stroboscopy in Clinical Practice with Hands-On Instruction
Friday & Saturday June 26 & 27, 2015

Multidisciplinary Comprehensive Rehabilitation Following Laryngectomy
September  11 & 12, 2015

Please call Barbara Messing, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-S at 443-849-8451 for questions regarding any of our upcoming conferences. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

For Head & Neck Cancer Patients-Survivors

The Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head & Neck Center is a pioneer facility; the first ever to take an interdisciplinary approach to the treatment of head and neck cancer. Since our opening in 1980, we have continued to stay in the forefront of care, treating patients from all over the world.

Head and Neck Comprehensive ServicesToday, our comprehensive services address every physical and emotional need of patients with head and neck conditions -- from surgery to voice rehabilitation, dentistry to swallowing. Our integrated approach teams the patient and their primary care physician with specialists in the disciplines of:
  • Surgery
  • Medical Oncology
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Speech-Language Pathology
  • Nursing
  • Nutritional Services
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Oncology Social Work
  • Maxillofacial Prosthodontia
  • Dentistry
Our expertise extends to patients in any stage of care -- from pre-operative to post-operative. The Center's Rehabilitation Services include:
  • daily rounds on inpatients
  • discharge planning and home health care coordination
  • speech, voice and swallowing therapy
  • outpatient follow-up
  • patient and family counseling and support
  • patient and family education
  • patient assessment
  • head and neck cancer tumor board and patient care conference
Head and neck conditions can be especially devastating for patients. In addition to medical concerns, these conditions can also have a tremendous psychological impact on patients' social lives and their interactions with the world. Oncology patients and their families participate together with a coordinated care team at the Center, whose services may include pre-treatment assessment and teaching, education, psychosocial evaluation and counseling services.
The Center also offers services for adult and pediatric patients with speech, language, voice, cognitive-communicative and swallowing disorders. We have sophisticated voice and dysphagia (swallowing) programs, incorporating state-of-the-art equipment including laryngeal stroboscopy, videofluoroscopy, (FEES) fiberoptic endoscopy, sEMG, transnasal esophagoscopy, Botox, Laryngeal EMG, and a swallowing workstation.
Our personnel are truly dedicated to providing excellent care by extending their commitment into the community with free oral cancer screenings, and by offering long-term follow-up programs to primary care physicians.
For more about The Milton J. Dance, Jr. Head & Neck Center, please call 443-849-8451 or email us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

17th Annual Head and Neck Conference - Just Surviving or Surviving Well: Life after Cancer Treatment

Friday, October 24, 2014


Instructional Personnel Disclosures

Program Objectives:

By attending this program, participants will:
  • Discuss the impact of head and neck cancer treatment on survivorship. 
  • Describe the effect of treatment advances in head and neck cancer therapies on quality of life. 
  • Describe advances in facial reconstruction after ablative surgery for head and neck cancer. 
  • Identify functional outcome measures related to speech and swallow after head and neck cancer treatment. 
  • Describe oral and dental rehabilitation of head and neck cancer survivors. 
  • Discuss psychosocial issues related to head and neck cancer survivorship. 
Please call Barbara Messing, M.A., CCC-SLP, BCS-S at 443-849-8451 for questions regarding any of our upcoming conferences.