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