Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Laryngeal or Hypopharyngeal Cancer

It is important to have honest, open discussions with your cancer care team. They want to answer all of your questions, so that you can make informed treatment decisions. For instance, consider these questions:

When you’re told you have laryngeal or hypopharyngeal cancer

  • Where is my cancer located?
  • Has my cancer spread beyond where it started?
  • What is my cancer's stage (extent) , and what does that mean?
  • Will I need other tests before we can decide on treatment?
  • Will I need to see other doctors or health care professionals?
  • If I’m concerned about the costs and insurance coverage for my diagnosis and treatment, who can help me?

When deciding on a treatment plan

  • Do you have a lot of experience treating this type of cancer?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • If surgery is part of my treatment, will I need a laryngectomy? If so, what type? Will my voice be affected?
  • What do you recommend and why?
  • What is the goal of the treatment?
  • What are the chances that I can be cured of this cancer with these treatment options?
  • How quickly do I need to decide on treatment?
  • What should I do to be ready for treatment?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it be like? Where will it be done?
  • What risks or side effects are there to the treatments you suggest? Are there things I can do to reduce the side effects?
  • How will this treatment affect my voice? If my larynx is removed, what are the options for restoring my voice?
  • Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that? Can you recommend someone?
  • How will treatment affect my daily activities? Can I still work fulltime?
  • What would my options be if the treatment doesn’t work or if the cancer comes back (recurs) after treatment?
  • What if I have transportation problems getting to and from treatment?
  • Are you aware of any clinical trials I might be eligible for?

During treatment

Once treatment begins, you’ll need to know what to expect and what to look for. Not all of these questions may apply to you, but asking the ones that do may be helpful.

  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • Is there anything I can do to help manage side effects?
  • What symptoms or side effects should I tell you about right away?
  • How can I reach you on nights, holidays, or weekends?
  • Do I need to change what I eat during treatment?
  • Are there limits on what I can do or what I can eat?
  • Can I exercise during treatment? If so, what kind should I do, and how often?
  • Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?
  • What if I need social support during treatment because my family lives far away?

After treatment

  • Do I need a special diet after treatment?
  • Do I need to see a specialist to check my speech and swallow functions?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • What symptoms should I watch for?
  • What kind of exercise should I do now?
  • How often will I need to have follow-up exams and imaging tests?
  • When should my next endoscopy be done?
  • Will I need blood tests?
  • How will we know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?
  • What will my options be if the cancer comes back?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?

Along with these sample questions, be sure to write down some of your own. For instance, you might want more information about recovery times so that you can plan your work or activity schedule.

Keep in mind that doctors aren’t the only ones who can give you information. Other health care professionals, such as nurses and social workers, can answer some of your questions. To find out more about speaking with your health care team, see The Doctor-Patient Relationship.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: January 21, 2021

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