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 [10]. 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[11]. 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.