10 Ways to Help Your Loved One Who Has Throat Cancer
When someone you love has received the devastating diagnosis of throat cancer, you want to be there for them and provide assistance in any way you can. However, sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin.
As ENT doctors in Raleigh, we have discovered and helped treat throat cancer in some of our patients, and we wanted to share with you 10 ways that you can help your loved one through this difficult time.
10 Ways to Support Your Loved One Who Has Throat Cancer
Often, one of the best things you can do is to be there and listen to them. Remember to be an “active listener.” This means you should make a concerted effort to retain, process and understand all the information being relayed to you. Too many people think about what they are going to say instead of focusing all their attention on the one speaking to them.
If you are an active listener, your loved one will know that they have been heard, and this will go a long way toward uplifting their spirits.
2. Realize That Talking May Be Physically Uncomfortable for Them During Throat Cancer Treatment
The radiation that often accompanies treatment can result in side effects including a throat that is sore, dry and raw. Just as you would find it painful to speak with an incredibly sore throat, realize that talking for them may be painful.
It’s best to follow their lead and allow them to initiate conversation. Try to avoid asking questions that require extensive explanations. When you sense they are tired of talking, don’t push them.
3. Don’t Lose Your Sense of Humor
Laughter, when appropriate, can uplift spirits. Remembering funny events or even an entertaining story can brighten someone’s day.
4. Realize They May Have Changes in Taste or Smell
Bringing food to someone undergoing cancer treatment can be a big help. However, sometimes with the treatment of throat cancer, patients demonstrate a change in taste—-the dish that they once enjoyed may no longer hold interest. Changes in smell can also affect how food tastes since the senses of smell and taste are closely connected.
It’s important to ask them what they feel like they could eat.
5. Get Foods That Will Help with Dry Mouth from Throat Cancer Treatment
Chores done with love can go a long way to help. It can be as simple as taking out the trash, picking up groceries or doing a load of laundry.
However, when you get groceries, be sure to pick up items that will help them manage dry mouth, which is a common side effect of throat cancer treatment. Make sure they have a good supply of bottled water, and purchase some sugar-free (or low sugar) popsicles or similar treats. Broth is also useful for softening foods that may be painful to swallow.
6. Make Future Plans
Cancer treatment is a long and rigorous journey. By planning a fun event that is manageable, you’re giving them something to look forward to.
7. Encourage Them to Take Care of Their Teeth and Mouth
Good dental hygiene may be the last thing on your loved one’s mind when facing throat cancer, but it is vital, particularly with the side effects of an extremely dry mouth, which can have long-term consequences. It will also help them manage any mouth sores and reduce the chances of infection.
You may even wish to provide a care package with an extra soft toothbrush and balm to keep lips moist.
8. Prepare Yourself
You will have strong and challenging feelings surrounding your loved one’s diagnosis. It’s important that you process these emotions so that when you are with your loved one, you can focus all your attention on them.
9. Learn About the Diagnosis
Your friend may not want to talk about their cancer or its treatment because they have been constantly bombarded with information. Therefore, learn all you can about their diagnosis so you won’t exhaust your loved one by having to share the information over and over again.
Below, we’ve provided some information about throat cancer that you will find useful.
10. Be Flexible
Cancer can be unpredictable. Be flexible and allow space for plans to change. Don’t place pressure on your loved one to stick to a certain prearranged schedule—doing so can be emotionally and physically exhausting for them.
Valuable Information About Throat Cancer
Different Types of Throat Cancer
The term throat cancer actually refers to either cancer that develops in your throat (pharynx) or in your “voice box” (larynx). You may also hear the term oropharyngeal cancer, which indicates cancer of the tonsils, soft palate and tongue base.
What Does Throat Cancer Feel Like in the Beginning?
In the beginning, it may manifest itself as a chronically sore throat that lasts longer than six weeks. This is often accompanied by hoarseness that won’t go away.
Other signs of throat cancer include:
- A chronic cough
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain in the ears
- A sore that won’t heal
- Unintended weight loss
We examine these signs more in-depth in our earlier blog, “5 Signs of Throat Cancer.”
What Increases Your Risk for Throat Cancer?
Smoking or chewing tobacco can substantially increase your risk. Other factors that can influence whether or not you get throat cancer include:
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Viral infections, specifically HPV and the Epstein-Barr virus
- Not eating enough fruits or vegetables
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Exposure to toxic substances during the workday.
Raleigh Capitol ENT Has Served the Community for More Than 50 Years
Our ENT physicians in Raleigh not only offer a wide scope of services, but through our state-of-the-art technology, many procedures can be formed in our office. This in-office treatment is not only more convenient, but it’s much less expensive than having the procedure done at a hospital.
We can help patients by detecting throat cancer when it’s at its most treatable, early stages.
If you have any of the symptoms listed above, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with us today.