There is a lot for you to think about when choosing the best way to treat or manage your cancer. Often there is more than one treatment to choose from. Take time to think about all of the choices. Two things to take into account are the type of cancer and the stage (extent) of the cancer. But your age, your overall health, and your own preferences are also important.
Based on the stage of the cancer and your health, different treatment options may be used alone or together. You may have different types of doctors on your treatment team, for instance an ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT), a radiation oncologist, and a medical oncologist.
It’s often a good idea to get a second opinion, perhaps from a doctor who treats this type of cancer often. A second opinion can give you more information and help you feel better about the treatment plan you choose. Even if they don’t require a second opinion, almost all insurance companies will pay for one.
The main types of cancer treatment
Treatments for these cancers may include:
Sometimes 2 or more of these treatments are used together.
It is important to discuss all of your treatment options — their goals and likely side effects, with your doctors to help make the choice of treatments 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 “What are some questions I can ask my doctor about laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer?”
If at all possible, the doctor will try to save your larynx and voice. Most experts do not recommend taking out all of the larynx unless there are no other options.
If it doesn’t look like the cancer can be cured, the goal of treatment might be to remove or destroy as much of the cancer as possible to delay its spread or return. Sometimes treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. This is called palliative treatment.
No matter which type of treatment you get, it is important for you to understand the goals of treatment ahead of time. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor so you will have an idea of what to expect.
Thinking about taking part in a clinical trial
Clinical trials are carefully controlled research studies that are done to get a closer look at promising new treatments or procedures. Clinical trials are one way to get state-of-the art cancer treatment. In some cases they may be the only way to get access to newer treatments. They are also the best way for doctors to learn better methods to treat cancer. Still, they are not right for everyone.
If you would like to learn more about clinical trials that might be right for you, start by asking your doctor if your clinic or hospital conducts clinical trials. You can also call our clinical trials matching service at 1-800-303-5691 for a list of studies that meet your medical needs, or see the Clinical Trials section to learn more.
Considering complementary and alternative methods
You may hear about alternative or complementary methods that your doctor hasn’t mentioned to treat your cancer or relieve symptoms. These methods can include vitamins, herbs, and special diets, or other methods such as acupuncture or massage, to name a few.
Complementary methods refer to treatments that are used along with your regular medical care. Alternative treatments are used instead of a doctor’s medical treatment. Although some of these methods might be helpful in relieving symptoms or helping you feel better, many have not been proven to work. Some might even be dangerous.
Be sure to talk to your cancer care team about any method you are thinking about using. They can help you learn what is known (or not known) about the method, which can help you make an informed decision. See the Complementary and Alternative Medicine section to learn more.
Help getting through cancer treatment
Your cancer care team will be your first source of information and support, but there are other resources for help when you need it. Hospital- or clinic-based support services are an important part of your care. These might include nursing or social work services, financial aid, nutritional advice, rehab, or spiritual help.
The American Cancer Society also has programs and services – including rides to treatment, lodging, support groups, and more – to help you get through treatment. Call our National Cancer Information Center at 1-800-227-2345 and speak with one of our trained specialists on call 24 hours a day, every day.
Last Revised: 02/17/2016