Improving patient care and quality of life after laryngectomy/glossectomy
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Patients undergoing total laryngectomy/glossectomy are left without a voice at least temporarily in the early postoperative stage, since their larynx and/or tongue has been removed. Those patients rendered permanently speechless usually acquire a form of mechanical speech through electronic devices. However, the life-changing nature of this surgery should not be underrated as effectively these people have lost their normal voice. It can be argued that this patient group is also without a voice in a political sense - theirs seems to be a forgotten cancer, as other forms of cancer appear to attract greater attention for research priorities and funding. In some ways this research attempts to redress the balance through exploring the patient experience postoperatively, in particular the issues related to communication for this patient group. The results also highlight the emotional trauma experienced by patients and the mechanisms healthcare staff employ to support these patients. This research is multidisciplinary, involving patients and all those health workers that come into contact with them on the ward. The patient experience forms a major part of this article, allowing their stories to form much of the content. The results draw attention to deficiencies in service delivery that, as a direct result of this research, have been and are being addressed so that patients' care is improved and their quality of life is restored. Such change has been driven by patient comment such as: 'But then when you wake up after that operation that's the pits when you are laying there and you think "I'm dead". And then when you wake up properly that's the bit I always say you wish you were dead. That's when you wish you had died.'
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