Consumers need to be able to locate a board-recognized specialist in swallowing and swallowing disorders (BRS) to help with their particular problems. At 34, I was diagnosed with Stage IV squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue. I didn't drink or smoke. Following the initial shock of my diagnosis, I mustered my strength and continued on. I had simultaneous chemotherapy and radiation treatments that engendered several problems-swallowing difficulty and persistent dry mouth. Through the weeks and months of my treatments, swallowing became increasingly difficult, but somehow I was able to continue. Upon completing my treatments, I was scheduled for a surgical procedure to remove part of my tongue, and knew I would need some very specialized training to relearn how to swallow.
Board-recognized specialists were not available at the time of my surgery and so I didn't have that option. I was fortunate to find a highly qualified clinician, who is currently a charter board-recognized specialist in swallowing and swallowing disorders. The swallowing treatment that I received, my family support, and my determination prevented me from having to have a feeding tube. I now take all my nutrition by mouth. This was the one part of my disease that, with help, I was able to control!
Consumers will strongly support the plan to encourage SLPs to become recognized specialists in specific areas. The designation of Board-Recognized Specialist that is being offered by the Specialty Board on Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders will allow consumers with swallowing problems the ability to identify those who have demonstrated excellence in their field. As in any field, specialization and recognition from the industry and peers will give the consumer the comfort and confidence of knowing that their health care or the health care of their loved ones will be in highly competent hands.