To mark Speech Pathology Week, Peter Mac is shining a light on the important role speech pathologists play in supporting patients to overcome communication difficulties.

At Peter Mac, speech pathologists see people whose ability to talk or swallow has been affected by cancer or its treatments.

Despite 1.2 million Australians living with a communication disability, speech, voice and other communication impairments are often invisible, and their impacts not well understood.

Peter Mac Speech Pathologist Tess Dunlop believes a person’s ability to communicate clearly, and to be easily understood by others, forms: “an integral part of our identity, but is often something we don’t think about and can take for granted”.

“Communication changes can be frustrating and can have far-reaching implications,” she says.

“We work with each patient and their support network to achieve optimal outcomes that enhance their quality of life.”

Speech pathology sessions at Peter Mac may involve tailored rehabilitation exercises, fitting of prosthetic devices, or exploring non-verbal methods of communication.

Speech Pathologist Rhys Hughes Fibreoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (FEES)
Speech Pathologist Rhys Hughes conducting a Fibreoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing (note: photo taken pre COVID-19 pandemic)

Madlyn Connelly, Peter Mac Speech Pathologist and national board member of the Australian Voice Association, describes how rewarding it is helping patients to get back to eating out with family and friends, speaking on the phone to loved ones overseas, or communicating clearly enough to return to work.

“Receiving a cancer diagnosis and treatment, or supporting someone going through it can be one of the most difficult times in someone’s life. We are privileged to be able to help them navigate their journey and advocate for their needs during this time,” Madlyn said.

“Being able to support patients to get back to their ‘new normal’ after treatment is incredibly rewarding,” she adds.

A focus of Peter Mac’s speech pathologists is working to ensure equitable access to services for all patients, clinicians and students based outside of metro areas.

Dr Jacqui Frowen conducting videofluoroscopy swallowing studies to assess swallowing function (note: photo taken before COVID-19 pandemic)

Read more about speech pathology at Peter Mac.