Throat Cancer Treatment Surgery

The National Cancer Institute estimates that more than 23,000 cases of throat cancer occur in the United States each year. Various throat cancer surgeries and other treatment methods, including radiation therapy and chemotherapy, can be used to treat throat cancer.

The treatment used, including the type of throat cancer surgery selected, is based on the stage of cancer and the tumor’s size and location.

Treatment Options by Stage

Here are the treatment options for each stage of throat cancer:

  • Stage 0: vocal cord stripping
  • Stage I: one type of throat cancer surgery, which may be combined with radiation therapy
  • Stage II: throat cancer surgery with radiation therapy
  • Stage III: throat cancer surgery combined with radiation therapy and possibly chemotherapy
  • Stage IV: throat cancer surgery combined with radiation treatment and chemotherapy.

Note that some Stage IV tumors are inoperable, so radiation treatment and chemotherapy may be used on their own.

Types of Surgeries

Laser surgery for throat cancer is only one of the operations available to treat this throat cancer. Types of throat cancer surgeries include:

  • Cordectomy: A cordectomy is a type of throat cancer surgery used to treat throat cancer on the vocal cords. It removes all or a portion of the vocal cords.
  • Laryngectomy (total or partial): Partial and full laryngectomies are throat cancer surgeries that are used to treat a patient with cancer of the larynx or voice box.In a partial laryngectomy, only a portion of the voice box is removed. In one type of partial laryngectomy, the removed section of the larynx is above the vocal cords, which allows patients to retain normal speech. Another version requires the removal of only one vocal cord, allowing patients to retain some speech functions.A full laryngectomy requires that the entire voice box be removed to rid the throat of cancer. This type of throat cancer surgery deprives a patient of natural speech. In this surgery, the surgeon must make an incision in the neck directly into the windpipe so that the patient can breathe.
  • Pharyngectomy (total or partial): A pharyngectomy is used to treat cancer found in the pharynx, the cavity in the back of the mouth that leads to the esophagus.Similar to a laryngectomy, this type of throat cancer surgery can remove all or part of the pharynx. This removal may require reconstructive surgery to restore the functionality of the throat, including the ability to swallow.
  • Laser Surgery: Laser surgery is usually used to treat throat cancer in its early stages. In many cases, laser surgery is used to treat Stage 0 throat cancer. During this procedure, a high-intensity laser is used to cut out or destroy the cancer cells. Destroying the cells, however, makes it impossible to further test the removed tissue.Laser microsurgery is a minimally invasive laser surgery for throat cancer used to treat small and medium-sized tumors. This procedure removes the diseased tissue without the necessity of an incision. Access to the cancer site is through the mouth.Laser surgery for throat cancer has proven more effective in preserving the surrounding healthy tissue and it appears to diminish vocal impairment.
  • Vocal Cord Stripping: This type of throat cancer surgery is used if the cancer is detected early. Vocal cord stripping is the removal of the outer layers of tissue on the vocal cords.

Side Effects of Throat Cancer Surgeries

Because of the invasive nature of throat cancer surgery, side effects may occur. Although all types of throat cancer surgeries carry the risk of side effects, laser surgery for throat cancer appears to reduce the risk.

Possible side effects of throat cancer surgery include:

  • loss of speech
  • need for a tracheostoma (a hole in the neck) to breathe
  • problems swallowing
  • reduction of speech functions
  • scarring.

Effectiveness of Throat Cancer Surgery

The various types of throat cancer surgeries can be successful in removing throat cancer. However, follow-up care is required to ensure that the patient remains cancer-free.

If the cancer is to recur, it typically does so within two years of throat cancer surgery. Scheduled follow-up visits during that time and a careful watch for recurrence symptoms can improve the chances of catching the cancer in its early stages.

Resources

Laryngeal Cancer (PDQ®): Treatment. (2004, September 23). Retrieved June 19, 2007, from National Cancer Institute site: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/laryngeal/Patient/page4#Keypoint16.

Oral and Throat Cancer. (2007). Retrieved June 19, 2007, from Mayo Clinic Oral and Throat Cancer site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/oral-and-throat-cancer/DS00349/DSECTION=1.

Surgery. (2007, May 14). Retrieved June 19, 2007, from American Cancer Society Detailed Guide: Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer Page site: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_4X_Surgery_23.asp?rnav=cri.

Throat Cancer (Larynx And Pharynx). (2006, July 28). Retrieved June 19, 2007, from Aetna InteliHealth Health A to Z site: http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/9339/10853.html.

Throat Cancer Fact Sheet. (2004, May 7). Retrieved June 19, 2007, from Disability Online site: http://www.disability.vic.gov.au/dsonline/dsarticles.nsf/pages/Throat_cancer?OpenDocument.

What Happens After Treatment for Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer? (2007, May 14). Retrieved June 19, 2007, from American Cancer Society Detailed Guide: Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancer Page site: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_5X_What_happens_after_treatment_23.asp?.