In this section: Laryngeal Cancer

larynGeal Cancer 



What do we mean by 'Laryngeal Cancer'? It is a type of Throat Cancer that is also known as voice box cancer. If it's not the cancer type you're looking for, please explore the information about other types of Throat Cancers or other types of Head and Neck Cancers.

All the information in this section is available in a PDF.
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1. Treatment options for Laryngeal Cancer

Following a diagnosis of Laryngeal Cancer, your cancer care team will discuss the treatment options including the possibility of participating in a clinical trial that is suitable for you. This is also a good time to consider if you would like a second opinion.

The most suitable treatment of Laryngeal Cancer depends on many things including:

  • size and location of the cancer

  • whether the cancer has spread

  • personal factors (e.g. age, general health and treatment history)

  • types of treatment available (and whether any clinical trials are available) 

  • ​your preferences for treatment

There are two broad categories of treatment for Laryngeal Cancers; surgery and radiation therapyChemotherapy is sometimes used at same time with radiation therapy (called concurrent chemotherapy).

2. Surgery for Laryngeal Cancer

Surgery is generally used for advanced stage Laryngeal Cancer. Your doctor may consider removing the cancer using a robot (Transoral Robotic Surgery, or TORS). TORS may be performed by a head and neck cancer surgeon, which is carried out through the mouth without any external cuts. 

The surgery options for early and advanced Laryngeal Cancers are:


Some advanced laryngeal cancers can be removed without any external cuts using a robotic system or by using laser surgery.

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A laryngectomy is the removal of all (total laryngectomy) or part of the larynx (partial laryngectomy).

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Partial laryngectomy is removal of part of your larynx. The larynx is the medical name for the voice box. 

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This is removal of part of the hypopharynx via an open neck approach. 

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This is the removal of all the larynx and pharynx. It is different to laryngectomy, where only the larynx (or part of it) is removed. 

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This involves removal of lymph nodes from the neck. This is important even when there is no sign of cancer in the lymph nodes on the scan, because there is a risk of microscopic cancer in the lymph glands of the neck.
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This may be considered if a large area of tissue is removed. This may involve taking tissue from another part of the body called a free flap repair. This operation is carried out by a surgeon who specialises in reconstructive surgery, your head and neck surgeon or another surgeon.
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A tracheostomy is used to create an opening in the trachea (windpipe) in the lower neck, where a tube is inserted to allow air to flow in and out, when you breathe. This is used as swelling after major head and neck surgery may affect your ability to breathe. The tracheostomy tube is usually removed within a week of surgery once normal breathing is possible.
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  • A gastrostomy tube (called a PEG tube) goes through the skin and the muscles of your abdominal wall into the stomach. Gastrostomy is recommended if feeding is needed for a medium to longer time (months or years).
  • A nasogastric tube goes through the nose down into the stomach. Nasogastric feeding is used for short time (days or weeks).
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3. Radiation Therapy for Laryngeal Cancer

The most common radiation therapy treatment for Laryngeal Cancer is called external beam radiation.  This type of radiation therapy applies radiation from outside the body.

Radiation therapy can be used in both the early and advanced stages of Laryngeal Cancer in the following ways:

Small field

This is frequently used in the definitive treatment (curative) of early (stage I or II) laryngeal cancer in an outpatient setting. This is when radiation therapy is targeted at the larynx alone. Treatments are usually given daily, for a period of 7 weeks.


This is a curative treatment option for patients with advanced stage Laryngeal Cancer. The aim of the therapy is to preserve the larynx and its function. It is another option to removing the voice box (total laryngectomy). Radiation therapy comprehensively treats the cancer of the voice box, its surrounding region, and the lymph nodes at both sides of the neck. Radiation therapy is typically delivered daily (but not on weekends) for 7 weeks and can be given as:

  • definitive radiation therapy alone; or

  • definitive radiation therapy with concurrent chemotherapy (adding chemotherapy to radiation therapy (chemoradiation) to make it more effective).


This is given after the surgical removal of the voice box and the lymph nodes (on both or either sides of the neck). It is used as an additional treatment to kill cancer cells that may not have been removed during surgery. It usually starts about 4 weeks after surgery to allow recovery from surgery. Radiation therapy treatment usually lasts for about 6 weeks. Sometimes chemotherapy is added to the adjuvant radiation therapy (chemoradiation) to make it more effective.


In cases where a cure is not possible, radiation therapy is used to relieve symptoms of advanced laryngeal cancer. Symptoms that may require palliative radiation therapy include pain, bleeding, breathing and swallowing difficulties.

4. Chemotherapy for Laryngeal Cancer

Chemotherapy works by destroying or damaging cancer cells. For laryngeal cancer, it is usually given into a vein through a needle with a cannula (tube) attached.

There are a number of ways that chemotherapy may be used to treat laryngeal cancer including: 


Sometimes chemotherapy is added to definitive radiation therapy (chemoradiation). It is usually used for advanced stage laryngeal cancers. This may be given once every 3 weeks or once a week throughout the duration of radiation therapy. The addition of chemotherapy makes the radiation more effective at killing cancer cells but also leads to increased side effects in most patients.


This is when chemotherapy is given after surgery in combination with radiation therapy (chemoradiation). This may be given once every 3 weeks or once a week throughout the duration of radiation therapy. The addition of chemotherapy makes the radiation more effective at killing cancer cells but also leads to increased side effects in most patients.


This is when chemotherapy is given before surgery or radiation therapy to help shrink large cancers and make them easier to remove or target with radiation therapy. This is not commonly used for laryngeal cancer.


This is used when the cancer is incurable. The cancer may be too large or has spread too much to be removed by surgery. Palliative chemotherapy helps to slow the growth of cancer and reduce symptoms. It is important to remember that palliative chemotherapy is not as intense as other types and is much less likely to have significant side effects.

Before you start treatment, your medical oncologist will choose one or more chemotherapy medications that will be best to treat the type of cancer you have. 

The chemotherapy medications your doctor chooses may depend on: 

  • whether the treatment is curative or palliative

  • when it is used

  • your medical history

  1. Head and Neck Cancer Australia Resources 
  2. External Links to other Head and Neck Cancer Resources