Background. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the speech and swallowing function of surgically treated oral cancer patients improves between 1 month and 1 year after surgery.
Methods. Speech and swallowing performances were assessed for 28 men and 10 women preoperatively and at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively following a standardized protocol. Speech tasks included an audio recording of a brief conversation and of a standard articulation test; swallowing function was examined using videofluoroscopy. Data were also collected on the number and duration of speech/ swallowing therapy sessions, as well as the amount and duration of radiotherapy.
Results. Statistical analyses revealed that the speech and swallowing function of surgically treated oral and oropharyngeal cancer patients did not improve progressively between 1 and 12 months postsurgery; the level of functioning that these patients demonstrated at the 1- and 3-month posthealing evaluations was characteristic of their status at 1 year after surgery.
Conclusion. The lack of improvement between 1 and 12 months postsurgery may be related to the relatively small amount of therapy that these patients received during that period. Several outcome variables worsened significantly at the 6-month evaluation; the reversal of function at the 6-month evaluation point could be the effect of postoperative radiotherapy, because irradiated and nonirradiated patients differed in their pattern of recovery on oropharyngeal swallow efficiency and several speech variables. © 1994 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.