Laryngeal Cancer: Treatment Choices
There are various treatment choices for laryngeal cancer. Which one may work best for you? It depends on a number of factors. These include the size, location, and stage of your cancer. Factors also include your age, overall health, and what side effects you’ll find acceptable.
Learning about your treatment options
You may have questions and concerns about your treatment options. You may also want to know how you’ll feel and function after treatment, and if you’ll have to change your normal activities.
Your doctor is the best person to answer your questions. He or she can explain what the treatment choices are, how successful they are expected to be, what the risks and side effects may be, and how much it is likely to cost.
Your healthcare provider may advise a specific treatment. Or he or she may offer more than 1, and ask you to decide which one you’d like to use. It can be hard to make this decision. It is important to take the time you need to make the best decision.
Deciding on the best plan may take some time. Talk with your healthcare provider about how much time you can take to explore your options. You may want to get another opinion before deciding on your treatment plan. In fact, some insurance companies may require a second opinion. In addition, you may want to involve your family and friends in this process.
Types of treatment for laryngeal cancer
Treatment for cancer is either local or systemic. You may have both. You may have 1 type of treatment or a combination of treatments.
Local treatments remove, destroy, or control cancer cells in 1 certain place in the body. Surgery and radiation are local treatments.
Systemic treatments destroy or control cancer cells throughout the entire body. Chemotherapy and targeted therapy are examples.
Goals of treatment for laryngeal cancer
Treatment may control or cure the cancer. It can also improve your quality of life by helping to control the symptoms of the disease. The goal of laryngeal cancer treatment is to do 1 or more of these things:
Remove the primary or main cancer tumor or other tumors
Kill or stop the growth or spread of cancer cells
Prevent or delay the cancer's return
Ease symptoms of the cancer, such as pain or pressure in nearby tissues
There are 4 main treatment methods for laryngeal cancer. Each has a different purpose:
Surgery. The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor from the larynx while leaving as much of the larynx intact as possible. People who have any part of the larynx removed will have voice changes after the surgery. Depending on the extent of the surgery, some people may no longer be able to speak or breathe normally. Lymph nodes that contain cancer may also need to be removed. Surgery may also be used to put in ports for chemotherapy and create a tracheostomy. A tracheostomy is a hole or incision through the front of the neck into the windpipe or trachea. A tube is put into the hole to allow you to breathe. Plastic or reconstructive surgery may be needed after treatment to help restore appearance and function in the area that was treated.
Radiation therapy. The goal of radiation is to kill cancer cells using powerful X-rays. This treatment can be used to shrink a tumor before surgery. Or it can be used after surgery to get rid of any remaining cancer cells. It may also be used instead of surgery. Radiation may also be used if the cancer comes back after initial treatment. Radiation only treats cancers in the area that is radiated.
Chemotherapy. This method uses medicines to treat the cancer. For laryngeal cancer, the goal of chemotherapy is to reduce the chance that the cancer will spread to other parts of the body. Or, if the cancer has already spread, chemotherapy can treat the spread. Your doctor may prescribe chemotherapy before or after surgery. In some cases, the doctor may use chemotherapy and radiation therapy together to kill all cancer cells. This is called radiosensitizing treatment. If that’s the case for you, you may not need surgery and your voice box may be preserved.
Targeted therapy. Targeted therapy uses medicines that attack specific parts of cancer cells. Some laryngeal cancer cells have too much of a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), which helps them grow. The most commonly used medicine that targets these cells is called cetuximab. It blocks EGFR so the cancer cell growth slows or stops. Targeted therapy might be used along with radiation therapy to help treat early stage laryngeal cancer. Or it might be used along with or after chemotherapy for cancers that have come back or spread to other parts of the body.
Clinical trials for new treatments
Researchers are always finding new ways to treat cancer. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Before beginning treatment, ask your doctor if there are any clinical trials you should consider.