Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer

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Treating Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer TOPICS

How are laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers treated?

This information represents the views of the doctors and nurses serving on the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Database Editorial Board. These views are based on their interpretation of studies published in medical journals, as well as their own professional experience.
The treatment information in this document is not official policy of the Society and is not intended as medical advice to replace the expertise and judgment of your cancer care team. It is intended to help you and your family make informed decisions, together with your doctor.
Your doctor may have reasons for suggesting a treatment plan different from these general treatment options. Don't hesitate to ask him or her questions about your treatment options.

General treatment information

Once your cancer is diagnosed and staged, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. Choosing a treatment plan is a major decision, so it is important to take time and think about all of your choices.

In creating your treatment plan, the most important factors to consider are the site and the stage (extent) of the cancer. Your cancer care team will also take into account your general health and your personal preferences.

Treatment for laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer may include:

Depending on the stage of the cancer and your overall health, different treatment options may be used alone or in combination. Based on these options, you might have different types of doctors on your treatment team. These doctors can include:

  • An otolaryngologist (also known as an ear, nose, and throat, or ENT doctor): a surgeon who treats certain diseases of the head and neck.
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy.

Many other specialists could be involved in your care as well, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nurses, nutrition specialists, speech therapists, social workers, and other health professionals.

It is important to discuss all of your treatment options, including their goals and possible side effects, with your doctors to help make the decision that best fits your needs. It’s also very important to ask questions if there is anything you’re not sure about. You can find some good questions to ask in the section “What should you ask your doctor about laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer?

If time permits, it is often a good idea to seek a second opinion. A second opinion can provide you with more information and help you feel confident about the treatment plan you choose.

A major consideration in all treatments is to try to save your larynx and voice whenever possible. Most experts don’t recommend surgery that will totally remove the larynx unless there are no other options.

If the cancer is too advanced to be cured, the goal may be to remove or destroy as much of the cancer as reasonable to keep the tumor from growing, spreading, or returning for as long as possible.

Some of the treatments above can also be used as palliative treatment if all the cancer cannot be removed. Palliative treatment is meant to relieve symptoms, such as pain or trouble swallowing, but it is not expected to cure the cancer.

No matter which type of treatment you get, it is important for you to understand the goals of treatment beforehand. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor so you will have an idea of what to expect.

The next few sections describe the different types of treatment for laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers. This is followed by a discussion of the most common treatment options based on the stage of the cancer.

Last Medical Review: 04/08/2014
Last Revised: 03/02/2015