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Changes in your speech

Get information on speech changes caused by mouth and oropharyngeal cancer or treatment.

Why your speech may change

Speech changes depend on where your cancer is, and the type of treatment. 

It is more common after:

  • tongue cancer 
  • soft palate or lip cancer 
  • having lots of your teeth removed
  • removing all or part of your voicebox (larynx)

How your speech might change

Your voice might be huskier, quieter or sound as though you have a cold all the time. Some people lose their voice.

It might become difficult to say some particular words, or you may slur some words. This can be temporary and get better once swelling from surgery has gone down. 

Sometimes it can be more permanent and others might find it difficult to understand you. You will have speech and langauge therapy for several months after treatment if this happens. 

Radiotherapy to your head and neck can make your mouth dry, making speech difficult. Your doctor can help you with treatments or advice to keep your mouth moist.

How you might feel

It can be very distressing and frustrating to loose your ability to talk, or to talk less fluently. 

Adjusting to changes in speech can take some time. It is important to allow time to take it all in, and find new ways of speaking and communicating. 

Carrying a notebook and pen or electronic tablet to write notes might be useful. 

Last reviewed: 
23 Oct 2014
  • Cancer and its management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley Blackwell, 2015

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