by Katrina M. Jensen, Fort Worth, Texas, USA
In addition to the surgical changes that occur during a laryngectomy, the effects of radiation treatment also have a large impact on swallowing . Xerostomia refers to the lessened and thicker (often sticky) secretions in the mouth and throat caused by radiation damage to the secreting glands and tissues of the mouth and throat. Swallowing should be a well-lubricated process. Even without the anatomical and physiologic changes described above, xerostomia makes swallowing a more challenging process. The throat is no longer lubricated as it should be and, as with many mechanical actions, lubrication is very important.