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Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)

  1. What are the symptoms of a cancer in the voice box?
  2. My dad has just been told he needs a laryngectomy. How long will he be in hospital?
  3. I had a laryngectomy 18 months ago but I still cough a lot and have a lot of phlegm/mucous. Is this normal?
  4. Why does my nose run all the time after my laryngectomy?
  5. Ever since my laryngectomy food just doesn’t taste the same, Why is this?
  6. I’ve been advised to wear a stoma button. Why?

What are the symptoms of a cancer in the voice box?
The voice box, or larynx lies in the front of the throat behind the Adam's apple. The voice box contains the two vocal cords and most cancers which develop in the larynx start on one or other of the vocal cords. Cancer of the larynx makes up about 2 in every 100 cancers. About 2,000 people in England and Wales develop the condition each year. Cancer of the larynx is almost five times more common in men than women.
The risk of getting a cancer of the voice box is greater if:
• you are a smoker
• you drink heavily
• you have a poor diet
• you are over 55 years old
The main symptom of a cancer of the larynx is a horse voice. Between 80 and 90 out of every 100 people with cancer of the larynx develop a hoarse voice. Other symptoms are pain when swallowing and difficulty in swallowing. However a hoarse voice and the other symptoms can have other causes apart from cancer but the important thing is that if you develop any of these problems you should see your GP who can discuss them with you and, if they think it is necessary, arrange an appointment with a specialist to be on the safe side.

My dad has just been told he needs a laryngectomy. How long will he be in hospital?
A laryngectomy is a major operation and your dad will need to be closely monitored after the surgery. He will probably spend one night in Intensive Care after the surgery and be in hospital for about two weeks but obviously this will vary from patient to patient. He will then be reviewed by the Consultant in clinic at regular intervals for the next five years. This will involve monthly checks for the first year.

I had a laryngectomy 18 months ago but I still cough a lot and have a lot of phlegm/mucous. Is this normal?
Excessive phlegm/mucous production is a natural response by your lungs when they are exposed to dry, unfiltered air. It’s their way of protecting themselves. You need to make sure you are protecting your stoma and ensure that the air you inhale is properly humidified. You can do this by wearing stoma protection such as a laryngofoam, bib or baseplate and filter cassette. Speak to your nurse or speech and language therapist for advice re these products.

Why does my nose run all the time after my laryngectomy?
Your nose runs after a laryngectomy because you no longer breathe through your nose but through your stoma. Because there is no longer any air flowing through your nose the tissues lining the nasal cavities become engorged with blood and do what they are supposed to do--make mucous. This is a self-limited process and requires several weeks for the body to get adjusted before the condition improves.

Ever since my laryngectomy food just doesn’t taste the same, Why is this?
Taste is a complex special sense. What we know as "taste", particularly the more delicate tastes, is really smell. The subtle tastes of eggs, certain cheeses, fruits, wines and the like depend on an intact sense of smell for their discrimination. Smell relies on our ability to move air containing certain molecules into the highest recesses of our noses. When we eat, the air with the odor bearing molecules goes behind the palate up into the nose. Following your laryngectomy, you no longer breathe through your nose but through your stoma. This results in less air reaching the smell part of your nose. The bottom line to all of this is that with a decreased sense of smell, it naturally follows that your sense of taste will be less as well.

I’ve been advised to wear a stoma button. Why?
When your laryngectomy was carried out, part of the reconstruction was to create your stoma. This was done by suturing the cut end of your trachea to the skin of your lower neck. The stoma is a surgical wound, the body responds by laying down scar tissue as a natural part of the healing process and all scars get SMALLER, consequently the opening will get smaller. A stoma button prevents/controls shrinkage and allows the scar to remain in an open position. This stoma button can be easily removed for cleaning and inspecting the stoma. The stoma needs to be large enough for adequate airflow so you do not experience shortness of breath at rest or with minimal exercise and to enable the fitting of a voice prosthesis if necessary. Most laryngectomees wear a stoma button for a few months following the surgery.

 
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