A new book is breaking ground in bringing medical practitioners together in the fight against a form of cancer that generally carries an immediate and devastating impact.
Jennifer Friberg and Lisa Vinney, both faculty members in Illinois State University’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, are the editors of Laryngeal Cancer: An Interdisciplinary Resource for Practitioners.
The idea for the book began when Friberg’s mother was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx, or laryngeal cancer, in 2014. She turned to her colleague, Vinney, who worked down the hall in Fairchild. “I asked questions, wanting to try and gain perspective that I could not as a daughter,” said Friberg. “I wanted a more professional approach to understanding cancer.”
From their discussions, the pair found no resources existed for practitioners that looked at the interdisciplinary care of laryngeal cancer patients. “Laryngeal cancer is going to have to be addressed by a multidisciplinary team, which includes an ear, nose, and throat doctor, oncologists, speech-language pathologists, respiratory therapists, and psychologists,” said Vinney.
The most common treatment for laryngeal cancer is removal of the larynx, which has an immediate and dramatic impact on the life of patients. “It affects how you talk, how you eat, and how you breathe,” said Friberg. “While all cancers are devastating and horrible, there are few that have an effect on quality of life right from the get-go that laryngeal cancer does in terms of just function and functionality.”
The book, which took two years to complete, includes entries from 16 authors from such institutions as the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Michigan, University of Arkansas, and Wake Forest University. “We really wanted to create a book for professionals who could share ideas and learn more about what other professionals are doing,” said Vinney. “Each specialist plays an important role, but all have different vocabulary with which they work. We wanted to make the chapters as jargon-free as possible, so anyone can pick it up and make sense of it.”
The book begins at diagnosis, and follows the outcome of several treatment processes. “We purposely set up the whole book, trying to tell the story from start to finish,” said Friberg, who lost her mother to the cancer in 2014. “We used case studies to walk readers through diagnosis, treatment, and if needed, end-of-life care.”
From understanding anatomy and physiology, to surgery, and managing breathing and communication, Laryngeal Cancer: An Interdisciplinary Resource for Practitioners paints a complete picture of what patients and their families potentially face. “We introduce readers to all the professionals who could be team members in the treatment of this disease,” said Friberg, who added one of the most important treatment considerations has to do with psychosocial care of patients and their families. “If you have a disease that potentially takes away your ability to communicate, does not allow you to enjoy a meal with your family, and takes away your ability to breathe with the physiology you were born with, you have some quality of life issues,” she said. “Patients have to explore these implications in terms of family structure and how everybody functions together.”
The book is helping students understand what patients go through as well. Vinney and Friberg are in their second semester of offering independent studies for their students to delve further into the world of laryngeal cancer. “With the independent study, students have to put themselves in the place of various people connected – the patient, the spouse, the employer,” said Friberg, who added students who took the independent study have raised funds to provide communications kits for people who have had their larynx removed.
The duo worked with Slack Incorporated to create the book. Though the company has a long history of medical publishing, this is the first publication in their speech pathology branch. “The people at Slack knew we felt strongly about patients and people being able to access this material,” said Vinney. Slack allowed Friberg and Vinney to create a separate set of resources for patients and families that includes a website and pdf summaries of chapters. They hope the extra resources explain bigger pieces of the laryngeal cancer puzzle. “We view those resources as something that medical professionals can hand out to patients, or patients can access themselves,” said Vinney.
One of the dedications of the book belongs to Friberg’s mother. Friberg and Vinney hope Laryngeal Cancer: An Interdisciplinary Resource for Practitioners will offer some guidance to families and practitioners going through difficult times. “No one should have to have the void of information that my family did,” said Friberg. “If we can help anyone get through that, then we feel we’ve done some good.”