Surgery for laryngeal cancer
If the laryngeal cancer is at an early stage, it may be removed through the mouth using trans-oral surgery. It may take up to six months for your voice to recover. In some cases, there may be long-term or permanent changes to the pitch, loudness or quality of your voice – see Changes to speech for more details.
If the cancer has advanced, you may need open surgery to remove the larynx (total laryngectomy). This operation removes the whole larynx and separates the windpipe (trachea) from the oesophagus. Following this surgery, you will be breathing through a new hole in the front of your neck called a stoma. This is a permanent change and you will no longer be able to breathe through your nose and mouth. Because this surgery removes your voice box, you won’t be able to speak naturally, but you will work with a speech pathologist to learn new ways to communicate.
If you have a total laryngectomy, your thyroid gland may also be removed (thyroidectomy). If the thyroid is removed, your body will stop producing thyroxine (T4), the hormone that maintains your metabolism, energy levels and weight. You will be prescribed a hormone tablet, which you will need to take every day for the rest of your life.
A/Prof David Wiesenfeld, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon, Director, Head and Neck Tumour Stream, The Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Melbourne Health, VIC; Alan Bradbury, Consumer; Dr Ben Britton, Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist, John Hunter Hospital, NSW; Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, QLD; Jedda Clune, Senior Dietitian (Head and Neck Cancer), Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Fiona Day, Staff Specialist, Medical Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Dr Ben Dixon, ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; Emma Hair, Senior Social Worker, St George Hospital, NSW; Rosemerry Hodgkin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Kara Hutchinson, Head and Neck Cancer Nurse Coordinator, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Julia Maclean, Speech Pathologist, St George Hospital, NSW; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Research Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Andrea Wong, Physiotherapist, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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