Treating Laryngeal Cancer
Different types of treatment are available for laryngeal cancer. Some treatments are standard (currently used), and some are tested in clinical trials. A clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial if they qualify.
Treatment options for laryngeal cancer typically include surgery, radiation therapy, and therapies using a medication, such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or immunotherapy. One or a combination of these types of treatment may be used to treat laryngeal cancer.
Before beginning any treatment, it is recommended that patients who smoke, quit. Smoking can lead to more side effects and make it harder to heal. It can also minimize the benefit of treatment and raises the risk of the cancer coming back (recurrence).
Surgery to Remove Laryngeal Cancer
Surgery is a common treatment for laryngeal cancer. A surgical oncologist removes the cancerous tumor and some healthy tissue around it during surgery, called a margin. The goal of surgery is to remove the entire tumor and leave negative margins. Having negative margins means that there is no trace of cancer in the healthy tissue that was removed during the operation. In some cases, the cancer cannot be completely removed. When this occurs, the oncologist will recommend other treatments.
The surgical procedures used to treat laryngeal cancer include:
Partial laryngectomy: Surgery to remove part of the larynx and part of the pharynx. A partial laryngopharyngectomy prevents loss of the voice.
Total laryngectomy: This procedure removes the entire larynx.
Laryngopharyngectomy: A laryngopharyngectomy is the removal of the entire larynx, including the vocal folds and part or all of the pharynx.
Neck dissection: Surgery to remove lymph nodes and other tissues in the neck.
After the doctor removes all of the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may have reconstruction, or plastic surgery, which aims to restore the appearance and function of the affected area. Reconstruction may be performed during surgery to remove tumors or after laryngeal cancer treatments during recovery.
Reconstruction for laryngeal cancer is typically not needed for patients with earlier stages of cancer, but it can be an important part of care in people with advanced tumors. Reconstructive surgery can be an option for patients who had only part of the larynx removed during minimally invasive or open surgery. This surgery is also done to repair the larynx structure when it is not necessary to replace the voice box. Voice restoration methods help patients who have had a total laryngectomy.
Radiation Therapy for Laryngeal Cancer
Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. External radiation therapy uses a machine to direct radiation toward the specific area of the body with cancer. Radiation therapy for head and neck cancers is quite common after surgery to be sure all of the cancer cells in the area have been killed. This is typically a 4-8 week process depending on the location and stage of the tumor.
Internal radiation therapy, called brachytherapy, is sometimes used if the cancer has returned. The radioactive material is placed directly into where there are cancerous cells.
Therapies Using a Medication for Laryngeal Cancer
Treatments using medication are used to destroy cancer cells. Medication may be given through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic therapy) or applied directly to the cancer (local therapy).
Medications are often given through an intravenous (IV) tube placed into a vein using a needle or as a pill or capsule that is swallowed (orally).
The types of medications used for laryngeal cancer include:
Chemotherapy for Laryngeal Cancer
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing.
Chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery or radiation therapy. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may also be given at the same time as radiation therapy. This is called concomitant chemoradiation.
Targeted Therapy for Laryngeal Cancer
Targeted therapy is a type of cancer treatment that targets specific genes, proteins, or tissue environments that control how cancer cells grow, divide, and spread. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells and limits damage to healthy cells.
Because not all tumors have the same targets, your oncologist may run tests to identify the tumor's genes, proteins, and other factors to determine the most effective treatment possible.
Immunotherapy for Laryngeal Cancer
Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy that helps your immune system fight cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function.
Patients involved in clinical trials may receive immunotherapy combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Head and Neck Cancer Treatment Available in Brevard County
If you have been diagnosed with laryngeal cancer or another type of head and neck cancer, the experts at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard are ready to help. We have cancer centers available throughout Brevard County, including Melbourne, Rockledge, Merrit Island, and Palm Bay, FL.