Dr. Anthony Anfuso, an otolaryngology surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Health, says patients diagnosed with laryngeal cancer often have to have a procedure to remove their voice box. “Almost all of my patients that end up with laryngeal cancer have a smoking history.”
Laryngeal cancer is cancer of the voice box. Patients with laryngeal cancer may experience symptoms like voice changes, hoarseness, swallowing issues, breathing problems, even coughing up blood.
“There’s been a lot of progress over the last 30 years of treating these patients nonsurgical, and they are able to keep their voice box, and that’s with radiation and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, when you have a cancer that’s really advanced or it fails radiation and chemotherapy often times the only treatment at that point is to take the entire voice box out,” said Dr. Anfuso.
The procedure is dramatic for the patient, causing them to lose the ability to talk.
“It’s a life changing surgery. We remove the entire voice box and then the patient who had the laryngectomy would have a little hole in the neck and that’s how they breathe. They don’t breathe anymore through their mouth or through their nose,” said Dr. Anfuso.
But after surgery, there are things patients can do to give them the ability to talk again.
“It’s what we call a trachea esophageal prosthesis. It’s a little device where you put a little hole and you connect the back of the stoma to the esophagus,” said Dr. Anfuso.
After a second surgery, some therapy, and practice, patients can learn to talk through their mouth again.
While it is life changing, it’s also lifesaving, giving patients the opportunity to live a healthy life moving forward.
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