Laryngectomy is the removal of all or part of the voice box (larynx). The voice box is in the neck and contains the vocal cords. It also helps you swallow and breathe. It is taken out to treat cancer of the larynx.
You will be asleep during the surgery. The doctor will take out all or part of the voice box through a cut in the front of your neck. This cut is called an incision. How much of the voice box the doctor takes out depends on how large the cancer is and how far it has spread. You will have stitches or staples in the incision.
Your ability to talk after surgery depends on how much of the voice box is removed. If all of it is removed, you will not be able to talk. In this case, the doctor will also make a hole in your neck to help you breathe. This is called a tracheotomy. The hole is called a stoma.
You will probably have a tube in your neck to drain fluid from the incision for 1 to 4 days after surgery. The stitches or staples will be taken out 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. The scar will fade over time. For a week or more after surgery you will need to get food through a tube. The tube goes into your nose and down your throat to your stomach. Your throat will heal in 2 to 3 weeks.
You can go home 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. You will probably be able to go back to work 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. It may take 3 to 4 months to feel normal again. Speech therapy will help you learn new ways to communicate if you can't talk normally after surgery. Most people can do their normal activities after a laryngectomy.
Losing your ability to talk can be very upsetting and hard to accept. It can affect your self-image and lead to depression. If you need help after surgery, you may want to see a counsellor.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & A. Evan Eyler, MD, MPH - Family Medicine, Psychiatry
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