Outstanding cancer care requires an unparalleled team. Our specialists in medical oncology, chemotherapy, radiation medicine, pathology and otolaryngology specialists all work and consult together to deliver you the most effective treatments. We will work with you to find the right treatment option for your personal situation. We use treatments that preserve all or part of the voice box whenever possible.

In certain types or stages of voice box cancer, we use radiation therapy to kill cancer cells or prevent tumors from growing. Radiation therapy is effective on its own with early stage voice box cancer. Radiation treatments are more effective when patients do not smoke or have already quit smoking. Learn more about our services by visiting our Radiation Oncology website.

Surgery may be used alone or in combination with radiation and/or chemotherapy depending on the stage of the cancer, or how much it has spread. Surgery has the goal of removing the tumor along with a margin (area) of surrounding healthy tissue, while preserving as much of the voice box as possible. Patients should quit smoking prior to undergoing surgical treatments for voice box cancer, as this can improve their overall outcome.

  • Endoscopic surgery is sometimes used for early-stage voice box cancers. Some studies have shown that endoscopic surgery has similar efficacy to radiation for these early cancers. This surgery uses a tube with a light and camera on the end of it to allow the physician to find, biopsy and treat some laryngeal cancers.
    • Vocal cord stripping may be used for superficial cancers or precancers of the vocal cords. This technique strips away layers of the surface of the vocal cords, and most people retain the ability to speak following this surgery.
    • Laser surgery, sometimes called transoral laser microsurgery, may be used to treat early stage voice box cancer. This advanced procedure uses pinpoint lasers to remove the tumor and preserve the voice box.
  • Laryngectomy can remove part or all of the voice box. We typically use laryngectomy for advanced stage cancers.
    • Partial laryngectomy can be used for smaller laryngeal cancers and is divided into two types:
      • Supraglottic laryngectomy is used to treat some supraglottic cancers — those higher in the larynx — and involves removing the portion of the larynx above the vocal cords. This typically allows normal speech following the operation.
      • Hemilaryngecgomy is used for cancers affecting only one of the two vocal cords and involves removing the affected vocal cord. This preserves some but typically not full ability to speak following surgery.
    • Total laryngectomy removes the entire larynx and requires a tracheostomy which brings the trachea (windpipe) up through a hole in your neck. This procedure will affect your speech, but speech therapists can help show you new ways to speak.
  • Lymph node excision involves surgery on the neck to remove lymph nodes (and possibly surrounding tissue) that appears to be cancerous.
  • Reconstructive surgery may be performed after the initial surgery to remove the cancer to help with the appearance and function of the affected areas .
  • Other surgeries may be required for advanced voice box cancers if they have spread to other areas.
  • We may use a combination of chemotherapy, radiation and/or surgery to preserve the voice box, or for advanced stage (metastatic) cancer. Chemotherapy drugs are injected or given by mouth to help stop the growth of cancer cells or kill cancers altogether. Chemoradiation, a combination of chemotherapy and radiation may be used for certain stages of laryngeal cancers, but chemotherapy may also be given without radiation.
Markey Cancer Center is NCI-designated

The UK Markey Cancer Center was first designated by the National Cancer Institute in 2013 – a distinction that recognizes our extraordinary ability to provide world-class care for our patients. We are the only NCI-designated cancer center in Kentucky and one of only 71 in the nation.

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