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Changes in your speech due to mouth cancer

Men and women discussing mouth cancer

This page is about possible changes to your speech which can be caused by mouth or oropharyngeal cancer and its treatment. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Changes in your speech due to mouth or oropharyngeal cancer

Depending on your treatment and the type of mouth or oropharyngeal cancer you have, you may have some changes in your speech. Speech changes are more likely with cancer of the tongue, soft palate or lips. They can also occur if you’ve had any teeth removed during surgery, or part or all of your voice box (larynx) has been removed.

Your voice may be quieter, huskier or sound as if you have a cold. Or you may slur some of your words or have trouble pronouncing some sounds. This may be temporary and get better once any swelling from surgery has gone down. But sometimes it is permanent. Having a dry mouth after radiotherapy can also make it difficult to speak. Finding that you can no longer talk as fluently as you used to can be very distressing and frustrating.

You will have speech and language therapy if you have any of these problems. This may only be for a short time. But if the problems are more long term, you will continue to have speech and language therapy for some months after treatment.

You may find it useful to carry a small notebook and pen to write notes to people if you need to. Typewriters or electronic notebooks are another way you can communicate. There are a number of different small portable machines.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Living with mouth cancer section.

 

 

Why your speech may change

Depending on your treatment and the type of mouth or oropharyngeal cancer you have, you may have some changes in your speech. This is more likely with cancer of the tongue, soft palate or lips. If you’ve had any teeth removed during surgery, or part or all of your larynx has been removed, this can cause speech problems too. A speech and language therapist will play a very important role in helping you cope.

 

Changes to the sound of your voice or slurring

Your voice may sound different. It may be quieter, huskier or sound as if you have a cold all the time. Or you may slur some of your words or have trouble pronouncing some sounds. This may be temporary and get better once any swelling from surgery has gone down. But sometimes it is permanent, and people may find it difficult to understand you. If your mouth is dry after radiotherapy this can also make it difficult to speak. 

You will have speech and language therapy if you have any of these problems. This may only be for a short time. But if the problems are more serious, you will continue to have speech and language therapy for some months after your treatment has finished. At first you may feel as though you will never be able to have a proper conversation again. With time and work many speech problems do get much better though.

 

Losing your voice

It can be very distressing and frustrating to lose the ability to talk, or find that you can no longer talk as fluently as you used to. It will take a while to adjust to these changes. So it is important to give yourself time to take it all in, and if necessary to find new ways of speaking and communicating.

You may find it useful to carry a small notebook and pen to write notes to people if you need to. Laptops, tablets or electronic notebooks are another way you can communicate. There are a number of small portable machines on the market. Your speech and language therapist will be able to advise you about these. They can help you to find the best type for your particular situation.

There is detailed information about speaking after having your voice box removed in the cancer of the larynx section.

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Updated: 23 October 2014