Swallowing problems during brain tumour treatment

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In-depth information concerning swallowing problems that can arise as a result of brain tumour surgery, and what can be done to alleviate them.

Key points

  • If your child has problems with swallowing, they should be referred to an occupational therapist.
  • The OT will observe your child as they eat and drink and may ask them to move the muscles of their tongues, lips and cheeks.
  • A feeding study done with an X-ray may be recommended.

In addition to having a feeding tube inserted, your child may be referred to an occupational therapist (OT) if they have problems swallowing. The OT will work with you and your child to improve their swallowing ability.

Swallowing and occupational therapy

Signs of swallowing problems

If you child is having any of the following problems, they should be referred to an occupational therapist (OT) to assess their swallowing:

  • Choking or coughing during eating
  • A wet-sounding voice and cough
  • Frequent chest infections
  • Being afraid to eat or drink
  • Avoiding certain foods
  • Complaints of food getting stuck or going the wrong way
  • Drooling
  • Pocketing of food in the mouth

What can be done?

The OT will watch and listen while your child is eating or drinking and may also ask your child to move the muscles of their tongue, lips, and cheeks. In some cases, the OT may recommend a feeding study, which is an X-ray that finds out what your child can drink and eat safely. It is like a movie of what happens inside your child’s mouth and throat from when food enters their mouth until after they swallow.

An occupational therapist, radiologist and X-ray technologist will take part in your child’s feeding study. During the feeding study, your child may be asked to drink different liquids and eat different foods. After the study, the occupational therapist will suggest how to feed your child.

Last updated: July 10th 2009