Laryngectomy

At Providence, we believe in treating our patients holistically. When it comes to laryngeal cancer, procedures like the laryngectomy help our doctors provide the comprehensive and precise treatment each patient deserves.

Used for treating cancer of the larynx and severe neck injuries, laryngectomy is the surgical removal of the larynx (the voice box).

There are various forms of the procedure. Some remove a portion of the larynx (partial laryngectomy) while others remove it completely (total laryngectomy).

Whether or not you can undergo a total laryngectomy depends on many factors, most of which include the size, location and stage of your cancer. At Providence, we’re committed to ensuring you receive the correct and proper treatment for your cancer needs.

The operation is performed as an inpatient surgical procedure and administered under general anesthesia. Depending on your diagnosis and condition, your doctor will recommend either a total laryngectomy or a partial laryngectomy.

In a total laryngectomy, the entire larynx (voice box) is removed. During the procedure, your surgeon will make an incision in the front of your neck. Using careful and precise incisions, your surgeon cuts around the larynx, detaching it from the trachea and surrounding tissue.

Because the trachea is no longer attached to the larynx, total laryngectomies will also require a tracheostomy. After the larynx is removed, your trachea (windpipe) is brought up to the skin in the front of the neck. Your surgeon will then create a stoma (hole), allowing you to breathe through. In order to keep the airway open, a tracheostomy tube is placed in the stoma. The tube is removed once the stoma has healed.

For smaller cancers of the larynx where only a portion of the voice box needs to be removed, a partial laryngectomy will be performed. Partial laryngectomies follow the same procedural steps as total laryngectomies, and most do not require a tracheostomy.

Depending on the location of cancerous tissue, several different types of partial laryngectomy procedures can be performed. If cancer is present above the vocal cords, only the top portion of the larynx is removed. This allows the patient to retain normal speech

In more severe cases, surgeons will remove a single vocal cord (cordectomy) within the larynx. This also allows the patient to retain some speech post-operation.

Despite the different approaches toward partial laryngectomies, the goal of the operation is to preserve and keep as much of the natural larynx possible.

Aside from common potential side effects (bleeding, infection, minor pain, dry mouth and difficulty swallowing), the most significant side effect of a laryngectomy is the loss of voice. The stoma required for total laryngectomies also requires patients to learn new breathing techniques. Because the stoma feeds oxygen directly to the lungs from the neck, patients also need to be more aware of the surrounding air they breathe. 

At Providence, our team of doctors, speech pathologists, voice rehabilitation specialists and psychologists work together to support you after your laryngectomy. Over time, your team of caregivers will provide the resources necessary to improve your quality of life post-operation.