Surgery for laryngeal cancer
If laryngeal cancer is at an early stage, you may have surgery to remove part of the larynx (partial laryngectomy). The surgery may be minimally invasive or open. It often takes up to six months for the voice to recover. In some cases, the changes to the voice may be permanent.
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 food pipe (oesophagus). After this surgery, you will breathe through a hole in the front of your neck called a laryngectomy stoma. This is a permanent change and you will no longer be able to breathe through your nose and mouth. Because this surgery removes the voice box, you won’t be able to speak in the same way. These changes can be hard at first. A speech pathologist will teach you new ways to talk and communicate.
If you have a total laryngectomy, part or all of your thyroid gland may be removed (thyroidectomy). The thyroid produces thyroxine (T4), the hormone that controls your metabolism, energy levels and weight, so you may need to take thyroid hormone replacement tablets every day for the rest of your life. Talk to your doctor for more details.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; Dr Sophie Beaumont, Head of Dental Oncology, Dental Practitioner, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Bena Brown, Speech Pathologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Senior Research Fellow, Menzies School of Health Research, QLD; Dr Teresa Brown, Assistant Director, Nutrition and Dietetics, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Lisa Castle-Burns, Head and Neck Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Region Cancer Centre, The Canberra Hospital, ACT; A/Prof Ben Chua, Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, GenesisCare Rockhampton and Brisbane, QLD; Elaine Cook, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria; Dr Andrew Foreman, Specialist Ear, Nose and Throat Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Tony Houey, Consumer; Dr Annette Lim, Medical Oncologist and Clinician Researcher – Head and Neck and Non-melanoma Skin Cancer, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The University of Melbourne, VIC; Paula Macleod, Head, Neck and Thyroid Cancer Nurse Coordinator, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Dr Aoife McGarvey, Physiotherapist and Accredited Lymphoedema Practitioner, Physio Living, Newcastle, NSW; Rick Pointon, Consumer; Teresa Simpson Senior Clinician, Psycho-Oncology Social Work Service, Cancer Therapy Centre, Liverpool Hospital, NSW.
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