Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Rehabilitation Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph Stemple


Deterioration in voice quality following radiation therapy for the treatment of laryngeal cancers (LC) is well documented in literature. The majority of studies show that these voice problems are long term and in some cases permanent. Deterioration in voice quality, especially over a period of time could lead to significant communication difficulties in daily life or in some cases could even result in loss of profession. Despite the negative effects of radiation therapy on voice quality being well documented, few studies have focused on the efficacy of voice therapy in the irradiated LC population.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the efficacy of a well researched, evidence based voice therapy approach, known as Vocal Function Exercises (VFEs) in improving vocal function in patients who have been irradiated for LCs. The present study conducted in three systematic stages with distinct and related study aims. The first involved characterizing the head and neck cancer treatment seeking population at the University of Kentucky (UK). Stage 2 involved characterizing vocal function following irradiation for LC using a multidimensional assessment approach. Stage 3 was a phase 2 clinical trial aimed at treating these deficits in vocal function identified through stage 2 using a systematic evidence based voice therapy approach, Vocal Function Exercises. For the phase 2 clinical trial, the comparison group received vocal hygiene (VH) counseling.

Observations from stage 1 showed that majority of patients from the treatment seeking population at UK between a 3 year time period from 2008 to 2010 were diagnosed with laryngeal cancers and were treated with chemoradiation therapy. Stage 2 demonstrated a multidimensional deterioration in vocal function following radiation therapy for laryngeal cancers. Stage 3 demonstrated a significant improvement in vocal function across the primary outcome measure (Voice Handicap Index) as a result of VFE+VH. Improvements were also seen in select parameters across the five domains of voice assessment in the VFE group. No significant improvements were observed in the vocal hygiene group in any parameters in each domain of voice assessment.

Our study demonstrated adults irradiated for laryngeal cancers demonstrated a multi-dimensional deterioration of vocal function. These changes were long term since study participants were 2- 7 years post radiation therapy. Implementation of VFE+VH demonstrated a significant improvement in voice related quality of life and select parameters across the five domains of voice assessment. The present study demonstrated promising preliminary evidence for the use of VFE+VH to improve vocal function in patients irradiated for laryngeal cancers.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)