Speech-Language Pathology

Many different types of cancer and cancer treatments can cause changes in your swallowing, speech, language, cognitive skills or voice. Speech-language pathologists at City of Hope provide specialized oncology services for patients with difficulty communicating and/or swallowing. We combine our clinical expertise and evidence-based practice with your individual goals to optimize your function, safety and quality of life.

Our Specialties Include the Following:


Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia can have a negative effect on your health, including:

  • Malnutrition/weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Choking
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Poor general health

City of Hope's speech-language pathologists are uniquely trained to diagnose and manage swallowing disorders within the oncology population using the following assessment tools:

  • Clinical swallow evaluation
  • Modified barium swallow studies
  • Fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing

What happens if I have trouble swallowing?

Speech-language pathologists are part of your care team. They have specialized training to manage swallowing disorders. Your speech-language pathologist may recommend changes to your diet or teach you strategies to make it safer and easier to swallow. Download and print out the speech-language pathology recommendations handout before you meet with an speech-language pathologist to document his or her recommendations for you.

Download and print out the speech-language pathologist recommendations handout

How to thicken liquids that your speech-language pathologist recommends you take

Your speech-language pathologist may recommend that you thicken your liquids if you are unable to swallow regular (thin) drinks safely. Download the Mildly Think (Nectar Think) Liquids handout for tips on thickening products.

Download the Mildly Thick (Nectar Thick) Liquids handout


Your ability to communicate with others involves many systems that can be broken down into the three general categories below. City of Hope's speech-language pathologists provides comprehensive evaluation of each area and individualized therapy based on your goals and needs.

  • Speech: The clarity, rate and/or consistency of how the words are spoken
  • Language: Ability to understanding/express the meaning of written or spoken language
  • Cognitive-Linguistics: Attention, memory, reasoning, problem-solving, insight/awareness and social communication 

Voice and Upper Airway Disorders

Voice disorders refer to any changes in the quality, pitch or loudness of your voice that impact your ability to communicate effectively. Certain surgeries can also cause permanent or temporary changes to your voice. The speech-language pathology team at City of Hope performs comprehensive assessment and management of voice disorders, providing the following services:

  • Videostroboscopy: Instrumental test to determine the severity/cause of any voice changes and if voice therapy is needed
  • Speaking valve: Restores voice/upper airway sensation for patients with tracheostomy
  • Tracheoesophageal prosthesis: Voicing option for patients with laryngectomy

Orders are required for inpatient and outpatient services.

If you would like to be evaluated by Rehabilitation Services, please ask your physician for a referral. All Rehabilitation Services (except activities coordinators services) require a doctor’s order or prescription.