Get a test for swallowing issues at Saskatchewan Swallowing Diagnostics

This article originally appeared in Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

Jennifer Cameron-Turley’s Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing test is available at her Saskatoon clinic with or without a doctor’s referral.

Businesses and non-profit organizations regularly open and move in Saskatoon. Today the StarPhoenix talks to Jennifer Cameron-Turley, a licensed speech-language pathologist, who opened Saskatchewan Swallowing Diagnostics in downtown Saskatoon.

Cameron-Turley, a healthcare worker for almost 30 years, opened her new business at the beginning of May to conduct outpatient tests and provide direction for people with certain swallowing issues.

She says that she is not only the first business in Saskatchewan but actually, the first independent business in Canada to provide the FEES test (Fiberoptic Endoscopic Evaluation of Swallowing), which is an instrumental swallowing test with several unique advantages. FEES is available at her clinic with or without a doctor’s referral, and without having to arrange travel to an outpatient appointment at an acute care hospital.

Part of Cameron-Turley’s mission is to educate people because she has found a general lack of knowledge about what to do about swallowing issues. She is eventually hoping to offer on-site services to remote and rural areas throughout Saskatchewan. For now, she is open by appointment two days a week at Wall Street ENT Clinic.

Related: Saskatchewan seeing shortage of speech pathologists

How common are swallowing problems in Canada?

Swallowing problems are quite prevalent in people over the age of 50, but they can happen at any age. People also might have a neurological issue or an acute or chronic disease that affects their swallowing. I would say probably 10 per cent of people over 50 have dysphagia or swallowing disorder. And the vast majority of people over 80 in nursing homes, probably 70 per cent of them have a swallowing disorder of some kind.

What are some signs that someone may have a swallowing disorder?

Big signs are persistent coughing and choking when you’re eating and drinking, or having food get stuck in your throat. This happens to everyone once in a while, but persistent difficulties are a red flag. Changes in your voice quality while eating or drinking can also be a sign of an issue. Sometimes it can feel like a persistent lump in the throat. When we do the FEES test we can sometimes see that people might be regurgitating some stomach acid or food into their throat.

If I can see what’s going on, I can refer people to different medical specialists who can help them out. Another thing is getting chest infections because you have food going down the wrong way. That can really put people at risk of ending up in the hospital if they end up with chest infections because they’re aspirating, or having food and liquid go into the lungs. Aspiration does not always lead to aspiration pneumonia, but it is certainly a risk factor, especially if you’re elderly, frail, your immune system is compromised, or you have pre-existing lung disease.

What steps can people take if they notice swallowing problems?

A lot of people don’t know where to go. Up to this point, you really did have to get a doctor’s referral to get an outpatient instrumental swallow test at an acute care hospital. But now with Saskatchewan Swallowing Diagnostics, outpatient instrumental assessments won’t need to be hospital-based and people can self-refer. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor anyway because there’s more than one cause of swallowing disorders. But with FEES people can certainly self-refer if they think they are having an issue, and then I can send the report to their physician once the examination is completed. If a person is unsure if this test is for them, I can certainly discuss the situation with them over the phone and see if this is appropriate for them, or tell them if I think a different test or a different medical specialist would be more appropriate.

How does the FEES test work that you conduct at Saskatchewan Swallowing Diagnostics?

FEES involves a slender nasal endoscope that goes into the nose and allows the speech-language pathologist to clearly view the patient’s pharynx (throat) and larynx (voice box) and oesophagal opening while the patient is eating and drinking to see exactly how the muscles are moving. That way we can see if there’s anything we can do in terms of manoeuvres or therapy that will make swallowing better over time. Or there might be diet recommendations for a person to alter their diet to make it safer and have them be less likely to aspirate or have things go down into the lungs.

The test typically takes around 15 to 20 minutes, then I would talk to the person about what I found. I’d make recommendations, introduce any therapeutic exercises and do any teaching that I need to do with them or the family. The visit would be about an hour.

Are other tests available to assess swallowing disorders?

Right now there are two “gold-standard” instrumental swallowing evaluations. One of those instrumental studies is FEES, and the other is a Modified Barium Swallow study (MBS), which is done in radiology in an acute care hospital. That test is excellent for diagnosing certain types of swallowing disorders but there are some disadvantages to it, too. The radiation dose of an MBS is relatively low — and speech-language pathologists and radiologists are always very careful to keep the doses as low as possible — but there are situations in which it’s best to minimize one’s exposure, especially if you have a history of head and neck cancer treatment with prior radiation, for example.

So I think my FEES service will really open things up to centres that do not have acute care hospitals, especially in rural and remote locations, and people in nursing homes and things like that where people might not be so mobile.

How does FEES compare to the other test?

It stands out very favourably. There are different indications and contraindications for each test but there are a lot of advantages to FEES for some patients. If you primarily have trouble chewing or moving food around in your mouth, or if your oesophagus or food tube is the cause of your swallowing problems, doing an MBS (Modified Barium Swallow) is the preferred test for you. There are some contraindications for FEES, such as a history of facial or nasal surgery or trauma, blocked nasal passages on both sides or a history of severe nosebleeds, or a history of vasovagal episodes or fainting.

What training have you had in conducting the FEES test?

Not many speech-language pathologists in Saskatchewan are trained to do FEES yet, but I hope to see the exam become more available over time. I went down to the United States to get trained in the technique and the interpretation. And then there was an ear, nose and throat doctor that oversaw my training in Canada for quite a few months and deemed me competent to scope and interpret results independently.

I’ve been doing FEES with in-patients in the hospital for a few years. I’ve done hundreds of them now but of course, there is always more to learn and I’m always trying to learn more to be a better clinician. There’s only one speech pathologist I know that’s doing this in an outpatient setting in Toronto. It’s certainly not common. But in the U.S., mobile FEES providers are getting increasingly common.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Saskatchewan Swallowing Diagnostics

Owner: Jennifer Cameron-Turley
Address: 140 Wall Street (Wall Street ENT Clinic)
Hours: Mondays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Email: Jennifer@swallowingdiagnostics.ca
Website: swallowingdiagnostics.ca
Check: Facebook

Call for Volunteers: 2024 Speech-Language Pathology Conference Working Group

The primary objective of the 2024 Speech-Language & Audiology Canada Conference Working Group and Sub-Working Groups is to work with Speech-Language & Audiology Canada (SAC) to develop the education program and all other events and activities associated with the 2024 national speech-language pathology conference.

All members must be SAC members or associates during their term on the Working Group or Sub-Working Groups.

Please note: the working language of this working group is English.

For a full description of the working group’s mandate, please see the terms of reference.

Tune into CBC Radio in Your City to Hear Julia Kennedy, (SAC Director of Audiology) or Jerri-Lee McKay (Audiologist, former SAC Board Chair) Discuss OTC Hearing Aids

Some recent changes to regulations around OTC hearing aids in the US has created some buzz in Canada.

At SAC, we feel this topic is timely and deserves attention. We feel strongly that any coverage on the subject should be based on information sourced from experts in the field.

Audiologists are the leaders in hearing health, which may or may not include OTC hearing aids. SAC advocates for equitable access to hearing health care that is individualized, safe, and effective. This requires the expertise audiologists provide at the highest level of training and quality of care.

CBC Canada approached SAC for our feedback on this important topic. This afternoon (October 21st) tune into CBC Radio in your city to hear Julia Kennedy, (SAC Director of Audiology) or Jerri-Lee McKay (Audiologist, former SAC Board Chair) discuss OTC Hearing Aids and what this could mean for Canada.

2:30pm     

 

 

NEW BRUNSWICK – Shift
Vanessa Vander Valk – Host
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https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-83-shift-nb
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2:40pm

 

 

HALIFAX – Mainstreet
Jeff Douglas – Host
Twitter(show): @Mainstreethfx (Halifax Mainstreet)
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CHARLOTTETOWN — Mainstreet PEI
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Twitter show/host: @mattrainniecbc
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EDMONTON – Radio Active
HOST: Jessica Ng
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3:30pm

 

 

CALGARY — Homestretch
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3:40pm

 

 

CAPE BRETON (SYDNEY) – Mainstreet
Wendy Bergfeldt – Host/Producer
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————-
3:50pm

 

 

WHITEHORSE – Airplay
Dave White – Host
Twitter: @yukonradiodave
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-81-airplay
————-
4:07pm

 

YELLOWKNIFE – Trail’s End – Host Lawrence Nayally
Twitter: @lawrence316
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-195-trail-s-end
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4:20pm

 

WINNIPEG – Up to Speed
Host – Faith Fundal
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-111-up-to-speed
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4:30pm

 

 

SASKATCHEWAN – Afternoon Edition
Garth Materie – Host
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4:40pm

 

LONDON/WINDSOR – Afternoon Drive
Host: various
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-80-afternoon-drive
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4:50pm

 

 

KELOWNA – Radio West
Host: Sarah Penton
Twitter show: @cbcradiowest
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5:20pm

 

 

VANCOUVER – On the Coast
Gloria Macarenko – Host
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https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-46-on-the-coast
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5:20pm

 

 

QUEBEC CITY – Breakaway
Host: Alison Brunette
Twitter: @cbcbreakaway
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5:50pm

 

 

TORONTO – Here and Now
Gill Deacon – Host
Twitter: @CBCHereandNow
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-82-here-and-now-toronto
————-
6:07pm

 

 

WHITEHORSE – Airplay
Dave White – Host
Twitter: @yukonradiodave
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-81-airplay
————-
6:20pm

 

 

VICTORIA – All Points West
Host – Kathryn Marlow or Rohit Joseph
Twitter: @allpointswestbc
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-93-all-points-west

March of Dimes Canada Tech for Impact Fund and Webinar about Unlocking Accessibility on Your Smart Devices (IOS)

Credit: March of Dimes Canada

Tech for Impact Fund

March of Dimes Canada’s Tech for Impact Fund is providing $50,000 towards purchasing and delivering mobile devices, laptops, and adaptive aids that support the independent use of accessible technology.

Eligible participants who enter our draw by October 28, 2022 will have a chance to win.

To learn more, click here

 

Webinar: Unlocking accessibility on your smart devices (IOS)

This webinar covers accessibility features on iPads and iPhones for vision, hearing, physical access and memory/cognition categories. Delivered by our team of assistive technology specialists at March of Dimes Canada.

To view the webinar, click here

 

Apply to Serve on SAC’s Role of Speech-Language Pathologists in Long-Term Care Ad-Hoc Committee

In September 2021, the Speech-Language Pathology Services in Long-Term Care Working Group recommended that SAC develop a position paper about the role of speech-language pathologists in long-term care (LTC) settings to support the association’s ongoing advocacy initiatives in this area.

Speech-language pathology members who have clinical and/or research experience in LTC are encouraged to apply. 

The deadline for applications is January 6, 2022.

Ad-Hoc Committee Details

  • Name: Role of Speech-Language Pathologists in Long-Term Care Ad-Hoc Committee
  • Purpose: To develop a position paper on the role of speech-language pathologists in long-term care.
  • Length of Term: Approximately 12-18 months 
  • Number of Vacancies: 3-5 SAC speech-language pathology members 
  • Working Language: English
  • Deadline to Apply: January 6, 2022

For a full description of the working group’s mandate, please see the terms of reference.
Eligibility and How to Apply

If you would like to apply to serve on SAC’s Role of Speech-Language Pathologists in Long-Term Care Ad-Hoc Committee, please ensure you meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Be an SAC member.
  • Be available for the duration of the project.
  • Maintain your SAC membership throughout your term.

For more information about the requirements, please see the ad-hoc committee terms of reference.

SAC encourages applications from members who identify as First Nations, Metis, or Inuit peoples, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and those who identify as gender diverse. Members with experience working with marginalized populations and knowledge of cultural safety and humility would also be helpful to support our work. SAC is committed to achieving a diverse representation on all committees and working groups and being inclusive towards all.

Interested candidates should complete a Volunteer Expression of Interest Form (Word | PDF) and submit it to volunteer@sac-oac.ca by January 6, 2022.

If you have questions about this volunteer opportunity, please contact Sue Decker, Speech-Language Pathology Advisor for Long-Term Care at sue@sac-oac.ca

 

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