What types of treatment are used?


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Radiotherapy treats cancer by using high energy rays which destroy the cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. It is usually the first treatment for cancer of the larynx and will cure most people whose cancer has not spread beyond the larynx. Radiotherapy may also be given after an operation to deal with any cancer cells that may have been missed.

Radiotherapy can cause general side effects such as slight feelings of sickness (nausea) and tiredness. In particular, radiotherapy to the larynx can cause specific side effects such as soreness on swallowing, a hoarse voice and feeling of sticky mucus in your throat, with soreness being the main side effect. These effects occur especially towards the end of the course of the course of treatment and during the first couple of weeks after your treatment has finished. The skin at the front of your neck may also become red and sore. This may get worse once treatment has finished but will start to improve over a couple of weeks.

The radiographer will be able to advise you how to look after the sore skin on your neck. You should not use any perfumed soap or creams on this area during the treatment course and keep the skin as dry as possible. As radiotherapy can make you tired, you should try to get as much rest as you can. These side effects will disappear gradually over a few weeks once your course of treatment is over, but it is important to let your doctor know if they continue.

2. Chemotherapy

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Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. They work by disrupting the growth of cancer cells. As the drugs circulate in the bloodstream they can reach the cancer cells allover the body.

While the drugs are acting on the cancer cells in your body, they also reduce temporarily the number of normal cells in your blood. When these cells are reduced you are more likely to get an infection and you may tire easily. During chemotherapy your blood will be tested regularly and, if necessary, you will be given a blood transfusion or antibiotics to treat any infection.

Other side effete may include feeling sick, vomiting, diarrhoea and hair loss. Although they may seem hard to bear at the time, do remember that these side effects are temporary and will disappear once your treatment is over. If you do lose your hair it will grow back surprisingly quickly. And the type of drugs most often used for cancer of the larynx usually only cause very mild effects. Your doctor will be able to tell you what side effects to expect from your treatment.

3. Surgery

Before your operation, you should have an opportunity to discuss it with your surgeon.

When the larynx has been removed there will be no connection between the mouth and the lungs, so the surgeon will create an opening called a tracheostomy (or stoma) in the lower part of the neck for you to breathe and cough through the tracheostomy.

The greatest loss for a person who has had a laryngectomy is of course the ability to speak. However, there are now several methods available to help laryngectomy patients produce sound and learn to speak again.
It may be possible to visit a speech therapist before your operation to discuss the different ways of communicating once you’ve had your operation. Which method you use will depend on what type of surgery you have and on your individual circumstances.

The most common techniques are used in Hong Kong:
  1. Tracheoesophageal Speech
  2. Electrolaryngeal Speech
  3. Pneumatic Speech
  4. Esophageal Speech