Patient Guide

Laryngeal Cancer

Introduction

The diagnosis of cancer in a patient is often accompanied by disbelief, and feeling of helplessness. The feeling of helplessness is partly due to lack of knowledge and little awareness of the many treatment options available.

This series of pamphlets aims to educate the reader about common head and neck cancers - how the condition presents in patients, symptoms they may experience, investigations that are required and treatment options available.

For more specific information, you are advised to seek a head and neck cancer specialist’s opinion for a face to face discussion of the condition.

Laryngeal Cancer

Larynx (or voice box) cancer is much more common in men than in women in Singapore but its overall incidence is decreasing. The main causes of larynx cancer are that of smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Common symptoms include a hoarse voice, blood in sputum, difficulty in breathing and noisy breathing (stridor). Patients may also have lymph glands in the neck and may be losing weight.

Examination and Tests

Your doctor will examine you and will perform nasoendoscopy, where a fibreoptic camera is placed through the nose to obtain a view of the voice box. Two types of investigations are required:

  1. Biopsy of the voice box to determine the presence of cancer (this is done under general anaesthesia).
  2. Scans to determine the extent of the disease. Commonly-performed scans include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan of the larynx and neck as well as Computed Tomography (CT) scan of the chest and liver. Scanning the chest and the liver determines if the cancer has spread to any other organs.

Treatment

The treatment of larynx cancer depends on the stage of disease. Early stage larynx cancers can be treated with either surgery or radiotherapy. Advanced stage larynx cancer requires surgery and radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy.

Chemoradiotherapy has the potential advantage of retaining the larynx but only certain patients are suitable for this treatment.

Your doctor will explain what treatment is best for you. Surgical removal of the larynx will affect speech and your doctor will explain to you the various ways in which speech can be rehabilitated.

Cancer Patient Services

The services that the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose, Throat), Tan Tock Seng Hospital offers in relation to head and neck cancers include:

  1. Diagnosis of whether or not the patient has a head and neck cancer.
  2. Appropriate staging of the cancer.
  3. Treatment of the cancer. Every patient with cancer is discussed at our multidisciplinary tumour board to work out the best possible treatment for you based on the latest clinical evidence for each condition.
  4. Long term follow up and surveillance to ensure the cancer does not return.

Cancer Care Management

We work closely with other medical specialists and allied health professionals to ensure the best possible outcome for our cancer patients.

Our radiologists provide their expertise in interpreting scans and aiding us in the exact staging of patients.

Our radiation oncologists and medical oncologists also provide expertise to our patients who may need radiotherapy and chemotherapy in the treatment of their cancers.

Patients who undergo surgery may sometimes need reconstruction of defects left by tumour removal. We have a team of reconstructive plastic surgeons who can reconstruct the defect to restore form and function.

The speech and swallowing therapy team will work rigorously with you to obtain the best possible outcome for speech and swallowing. Additionally, you will also meet our dietician who will provide dietary advice before, during and after treatment. We also collaborate with the dental team to ensure your teeth are in optimal condition before embarking on radiotherapy.

Our aim is the same as yours: to fight off the cancer and to return you to an optimal quality of life.

Download brochure here.

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