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Treatment for Laryngeal Cancer

Specialists at Penn Head and Neck Cancer are leaders in treating all types of laryngeal (voice box) cancer, having pioneered many of the latest advancements in head and neck cancer diagnosis, treatment and care. Our multidisciplinary team consists of experts from Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center and Penn Ear, Nose and Throat who work together to create customized treatment plans that address all of a patient’s individual needs. Our trained specialists combine leading edge treatment and compassionate care with the goal of preserving the voice box, using the latest modern surgical and non-surgical techniques.

Treatment for voice box cancer will depend on the type and stage of the disease. Our team treats all types of voice box cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma, adenoid cystic carcinoma (ACC), mucoepidermoid carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, lymphoma and sarcoma. Treatment plans may combine surgery, radiation and chemotherapy or surgery alone, each carrying their own risks and benefits.

Surgical Treatment for Laryngeal (Voice Box) Cancer

Types of surgical treatments performed to treat voice box cancer include:

Endoscopic surgery

Microscopic direct laryngoscopy and laser microsurgery can be performed on early stage laryngeal cancers with good speech and swallow results while avoiding primary radiation. One of the major benefits of this approach is that can be performed multiple times. It often involves the use of the laser for added precision. 

Supracricoid (partial) laryngectomy

Is a type of laryngectomy done that removes almost half of the voice box while still preserving a patient’s speech. This complex surgery is performed on advanced stage voice box cancer and allows surgeons to preserve the voice box while avoiding high doses of radiation or avoiding radiation entirely.

Total laryngectomy

A total laryngectomy is the removal of the entire voice box. This is performed for advanced stage voice box cancers, and for laryngeal cancers that did not respond well to chemotherapy and radiation. Total laryngectomies require reconstructive microsurgery.

Treating Voice Box Cancer With TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS)

TORS is the world's first minimally invasive robotic surgery technique that enables surgeons to remove benign and malignant tumors of the mouth and throat. TORS was invented and developed at Penn Medicine by the pioneering team of Bert W. O'Malley, Jr., MD and Gregory S. Weinstein, MD. There are many benefits of TORS for patients:

  • Quicker return to normal activity
  • Shorter hospitalization
  • Reduced risk of long-term swallowing problems (most commonly seen with chemo-radiation or traditional open surgery)
  • Fewer complications compared to traditional open surgery
  • Less scarring than traditional open surgery
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less risk of blood transfusion when compared to open surgery

Non-surgical Treatment for Voice Box Cancer

In some cases of voice box cancer, non-surgical treatments may be used alone or in addition to surgery. Non-surgical treatments for voice box cancer include:

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy for voice box cancer can be provided at the Perelman Radiation Center. Oncologists at Penn Head and Neck Cancer work closely with the radiation oncologist to oversee follow-up care and ensure an individual’s symptoms are managed. For advanced stages of voice box cancer, chemotherapy and radiation are both used if it is possible for the voice box to be preserved. It is important to have an appropriate evaluation prior to chemoradiation, as many advanced cancers should not be treated with chemoradiation due to lower rates of cures and high rates of complications.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is only used in the treatment of voice box cancer as a sensitizer for radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is never given alone for treatment.