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Xerostomia = Dry Mouth

Byline: Jennifer Kurtz is a Speech Language Pathologist and stage IV oral cancer survivor practicing at Overlake Medical Center near Seattle, Washington. Her experience has given her an unexpected, yet unique, perspective on the clinician’s role in the management of the Head & Neck Cancer population and has motivated her to advocate for aggressive, collaborative, multi-disciplinary care of all patients across a broad continuum.

Xerostomia describes the subjective sensation of oral dryness and is commonly called “dry mouth.” The typical causes of dry mouth include medications, radiotherapy to the head and neck for cancer treatment, and systemic diseases.


Xerostomia can have a profound, negative impact on quality of life. The lack of salivary production impacts the ability to eat, sleep, speak, and swallow (Lew & Smith, 2007). Adequate salivary flow allows us to speak clearly without our lips sticking to our teeth and to mix saliva with food when we chew to enable easy transfer through the oral cavity as we swallow. Inadequate salivary function can create a number of complications such as: continue reading →

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Webinar Recording: Gaining Greater Body Image when Living with Dysphagia

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When Breath Becomes Air a book by Paul Kalanithi

When Breadth Becomes AirBy: Ed Steger, President, NFOSD

[Note. Why I’m writing this book review. Plain and simple, Paul’s story resonated with me in so many ways. The book was given to me as a gift by my daughter in January, this too has special meaning.]

This book, for those of you not familiar with it, is a book about death and how death gives meaning to life. It is the new “darling” of The New York Times and NPR. It is written in a genre similar to The Last Lecture and Being Mortal. This isn’t a spoiler as it is on the book’s inside jacket cover, Paul Kalanithi, the author and a neurosurgeon, contracted lung cancer and died in March 2015 at the age of 36. continue reading →

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Advice from Survivors to Patients with Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer

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Feeding tube or no feeding tube? That is the question!

Feeding tube imageFor many with a swallowing disorder, a number of factors come into play when deciding to use or not use a feeding tube. And, it’s not just whether or not it’s the right decision, but other questions come into play: the type of feeding tube, the timing of when to begin (and maybe more important, when to stop), the duration, and one’s emotions about the tube itself all play a role in making this decision.


The NFOSD is always on the lookout for valuable content for our community. Please click here to be directed to an article written by Mary Spremulli, MA, CCC-SLP, of Voice Aerobics, LLC. She presents the three primary types of feeding tube, the adverse health events (e.g., disease, injury) that help justify the need and timing of a feeding tube, and the potential implications of a feeding tube in a patient who is no longer able to make their own decision.

Thank you Mary for developing this article and allowing us to share it with our community.