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Cancer - throat or larynx

  • Alternative Names

    Vocal cord cancer; Throat cancer; Laryngeal cancer; Cancer of the glottis


    Treatment

    The goal of treatment is to completely remove the cancer and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.

    When the tumor is small, either surgery or radiation therapy alone can be used to remove the tumor.

    When the tumor is larger or has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, a combination of radiation and chemotherapy is often used to preserve the voice box.

    Some patients need surgery to remove the tumor, including all or part of the vocal cords (laryngectomy). If you have a laryngectomy, speech therapy can help you learn other ways to talk.

    Many patients also need swallowing therapy after treatment to help them adjust to the changes in the structure of the throat.


    Support Groups

    You can ease the stress of illness by joining a support group of people who share common experiences and problems. See cancer - support group.


    Expectations (prognosis)

    Throat cancers can be cured in 90% of patients if detected early. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or lymph nodes in the neck, 50 - 60% of patients can be cured. If the cancer has spread (metastasized) to parts of the body outside the head and neck, the cancer is not curable and treatment is aimed at prolonging and improving quality of life.

    After treatment, patients generally need therapy to help with speech and swallowing. A small percentage of patients (5%) will not be able to swallow and will need to be fed through a feeding tube.


    Complications
    • Airway obstruction
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Disfigurement of the neck or face
    • Hardening of the skin of the neck
    • Loss of voice and speaking ability
    • Spread of the cancer to other body areas (metastasis)

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You have symptoms of throat cancer, especially hoarseness or a change in voice with no obvious cause that lasts longer than 3 weeks
    • You find a lump in your neck that does not go away in 2 - 3 weeks