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Symptom Management:

Symptom Management

Side Effects of Treatment
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Appetite Loss
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Difficulty Swallowing: Exercises for the Tongue

Symptom and Description Your surgery or treatment may make it difficult for you to swallow or to control food in your mouth. These exercises will improve your ability to move your tongue well. Your tongue is important for eating, speaking, and swallowing.

Learning Needs You will learn exercises to make your tongue stronger. You also need to know when to call your doctor or nurse.

Prevention It is not likely you can prevent this problem from occurring, but these techniques can make it easier for you to swallow:

  • Do these exercises five to ten times a day.
  • Keep a record of the exercises.
  • Note any changes you feel while eating or swallowing.
  • Call your doctor or nurse if it becomes more difficult to swallow or eat.


1. General exercises: Do these five to ten times a day.

  • Open mouth as wide as possible.
  • Lift tongue as high as possible; hold 1 second; repeat five times.
  • Lift back of tongue as far as possible; hold 1 second; repeat five times.

2. Tongue exercises. Do these five to ten times a day.

  • Push tongue forward against a tongue blade or your fingers; hold for 1 second.
  • Then push tongue to one side and forward again.
  • Then push tongue to the other side and forward again; hold for 1 second.
  • Repeat these exercises five times.

3. Measure progress.

  • Keep a chart of exercises done and the response (such as more movement and strength).
  • These exercises will become easier to perform.
  • It will become easier to move foods in your mouth.
  • Share this information with your nurse and swallowing therapist.
  • Talk with your nurse and swallowing therapist if you believe that the exercises are not helping your tongue strength.
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2004 2nd Cancer Opinion USA