This health video focuses on helping people regain the ability of swallowing after suffering from head or throat cancer.
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Jennifer Matthews: Doctor Allen Clark is a plastic surgeon. But two years ago, he became a patient. Allen Clark: I actually had a lymph node come up in my neck. Being a physician, a surgeon, knowing what that means, I was pretty sure I had cancer. Jennifer Matthews: It was throat cancer. Doctors recommended chemotherapy and radiation. But radiation caused his throat to tighten, and swallowing became excruciatingly painful. Dr. Bill Carroll: It is almost like you're drinking hot coffee that's too hot, and you burn your throat, but you do that every day for six or seven weeks. Jennifer Matthews: Doctor Bill Carroll and colleagues noticed patients who continued to swallow during treatment, instead of relying on a feeding tube, did better. Now, patients are taught a series of swallowing exercises they do before and during treatment. Dr. Allen Clark: So, one of the exercises that we did was we would hold my tongue between my teeth and swallow. Jennifer Matthews: Another is making a high-pitch "e" sound to elevate the larynx. All the exercises work to strengthen the tongue and throat muscles. Here's liquid going down the throat. The narrowing shows the problem. Patients say the exercises are simple but can be painful. Dr. Bill Carroll: But most of them do try, and for the ones that are able to go ahead and do it, there seems to be a benefit. Jennifer Matthews: Doctor Clark still has some trouble with certain foods, but says the exercises have paid off. This is Jennifer Matthews reporting.