Speech Pathology Research

The focus of speech pathology research is

  • To understand the patients at greatest risk of swallowing problems (dysphagia) and communication impairments during cancer treatment.
  • To determine effective speech pathology interventions and management for people with cancer, both during and post cancer treatment.
  • To explore novel models of speech pathology care, including the use of instrumental assessments such as videofluoroscopy swallowing studies (VFSS) and fibreoptic endoscopic evaluation of swallowing (FEES).

Dysphagia in oncology research program

The Speech Pathology team’s Dysphagia in Oncology Research Program is led by Dr Jacqui Frowen. It aims to develop and undertake research specifically investigating swallowing outcomes before and after cancer treatment.

The program’s head and neck cancer arm has helped further our understanding of swallowing problems after radiotherapy for head and neck cancer, and to help identify which patients are at highest risk of developing these problems. Further research is being undertaken to improve our management of these patients before treatment and to identify interventions to better manage swallowing problems after treatment.

The program also has a non-head and neck cancer arm, looking at the prevalence and nature of swallowing problems after cancer treatments other than head and neck, particularly lung and upper gastrointestinal cancers. We are developing measurement tools for accurate identification of swallowing problems in these patients.

Speech pathology research contact

Dr Jacqui Frowen

Dr Frowen is the Clinical Lead of Speech Pathology at Peter Mac. She has worked as a speech pathologist with a special interest in oncology for over 20 years. Dr Frowen completed her PhD in 2009 and continues to conduct clinical research into swallowing and communication outcomes before and after cancer treatment, particularly for head and neck or lung cancer. She currently holds a Peter Mac Discovery Partner Fellowship, which will support her research on dysphagia in oncology over the next 5 years. Jacqui is passionate about supporting and encouraging other speech pathologists and allied health clinicians to pursue clinical research and enjoys teaching undergraduate speech pathology students as a regular invited lecturer at the University of Melbourne.

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