This project aims to study a new virtual group intervention set up for patients treated for head and neck cancer with chemoradiotherapy: the Intervention orthophonique virtuelle de Groupe en déglutition Guidée par un patient partenaire, or eG2 Intervention.
Chemoradiotherapy treatments are known to produce significant side effects that prevent patients from swallowing food properly, known as swallowing disorders or dysphagia. There are exercises that help patients to recover better from their treatments and have less difficulty swallowing. This initial recovery is very important for the patient’s future well-being and quality of life. Unfortunately, patients often don’t complete their exercises because of the pain and fatigue associated with their treatments, and because they don’t see the importance of doing them. That’s why the team of speech-language pathologists at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) has innovated by setting up a virtual group swallowing intervention model guided by a patient partner.
Halfway between group therapy and a support group, distance meetings are offered weekly to patients during their chemoradiotherapy treatment. In addition to the speech therapist, who ensures that patients are doing their exercises at home and adjusts them as needed, a patient partner is present at these group meetings. His presence helps to reassure, inform, inspire and motivate patients. Together, the speech therapist, the patient partner and all the patients present find solutions and support each other in adapting to the intense side effects caused by treatment, while finding the courage and motivation to carry out their exercise program to prevent swallowing disorders. However, the impact of telehealth in providing patient-partner-guided group speech therapy has not yet been explored.
This project therefore aims to examine the impact of the eG2 Intervention in preventing dysphagia-related complications, improving patients’ quality of life and quality of care. This study is important for improving this intervention and making it available to other patients, in other centers in Quebec and elsewhere.