A laryngectomy is the removal of all (total laryngectomy) or part of the larynx (partial laryngectomy).
Partial laryngectomy is the term used to describe removal of part of the voice box using a cut on the neck, but your surgeon may also consider removing the cancer with a laser or robot through the mouth without any external cuts (transoral surgery). Click here for further information about Trans-oral robotic surgery or Trans-oral laser surgery.
A total laryngectomy is used for larger cancers that cannot be treated with a smaller operation. This involves removing the whole voice box and will have a major effect on your life. It will change the way that you talk, breath and look. Despite this, most patients adjust to these changes with the support of their friends, family and cancer care team.
After the voice box is removed during a total laryngectomy, the top of the windpipe is sewn to the skin of the neck to make a hole that you will breathe through after surgery. This is called a tracheostoma, or ‘stoma’ for short.
Sometimes cancers of the voice box can extend outside of the larynx and part of the throat (hypopharynx) needs to be removed as well. This is called a laryngopharyngectomy.
Sometimes the lymph nodes in the neck may need to be removed and this is called a neck dissection.
Part or all of the thyroid gland may also be removed during total laryngectomy, this is called a thyroidectomy.
After the cancer is removed, some reconstructive surgery may also be done in the same operation. Click here for further information on different reconstructive surgeries - soft issue flaps and regional flaps.
To learn more about having a Laryngecectomy including what to expect after the operation download our Laryngectomy Information sheet at the top of the page.