After treatment for cancer of the voicebox (larynx)
Once your treatment is completed, you will have regular check-ups. These will continue for several years. You may also have scans from time to time.
It’s important you tell your specialist about any new symptoms you have or any symptoms that aren’t improving. Don’t wait until your next appointment to report any new symptoms.
If you can’t attend a follow-up appointment, contact your doctor or clinic to arrange another appointment.
We have more information on life after cancer treatment for people whose treatment is over apart from regular check-ups.
Making positive choices after treatment
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Coming to the end of your cancer treatment can be a time of mixed emotions. You’ll probably feel relieved, but there can also be feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. It can take time to rebuild confidence and to come to terms with what you’ve been through.
It may take time to recover from treatment. There may be physical changes in the way you look, and possibly changes in some areas of your daily life, such as the way you speak or what you can eat. There will also be emotional changes to deal with, so it’s important to give yourself time to adjust.
You may want to think about making changes to your lifestyle and find out more about healthy living. Perhaps you followed a healthy lifestyle before your cancer and you’re keen to carry on making the most of your health.
There are things you can do to help your body recover. These can also help improve your sense of well-being and lower your risk of getting other illnesses and cancers.
If you’re a smoker, it’s important to try to give up. Smoking is the main cause of head and neck cancers, and continuing to smoke puts you at greater risk of developing a second cancer.
Giving up smoking can be difficult but there’s lots of support available. Speak to your doctor or call a stop smoking helpline for further advice and to find out where your local stop smoking service is.
Cutting back on alcohol is also important. If you can’t stop drinking alcohol completely, it’s best to avoid drinking spirits.
It’s important to have a nutritious and well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, even if your appetite and interest in food have been reduced. Your dietitian can advise you on ways to eat well and help with any problems you may have.
Physical activity can be an important part of your recovery after treatment. It can improve your sense of well-being and build up your energy levels. It also reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Talk to your cancer specialist or GP before you start. Start slowly and increase your activity over time.
Late effects of treatment
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Some side effects that develop during treatment can take time to improve or may become permanent. Other side effects may develop some time after treatment has finished (late effects). You may not experience any late effects or they may range from being mild to more troublesome.
Always let your doctor or specialist nurse know about any problems you’re experiencing. There are ways of treating or managing late effects if they happen.
This can be caused by thickening of the wall of the gullet, narrowing of the gullet, or loss of sensation when swallowing. A speech and language therapist can give you help and advice with swallowing problems.
Radiotherapy can damage your salivary glands, which might leave you with a dry mouth. You can use mouthwashes and protective gels to coat the lining of your mouth, which can help. You may have to carry water with you, or eat softer foods with plenty of sauces and gravies, which will be easier to swallow.
If you have a dry mouth, you’re more at risk of tooth problems, as saliva protects your teeth from decay. You should go for regular check-ups with your dentist and oral hygienist and follow a regular mouth care routine.
Low levels of the thyroid hormone thryroxine (hypothyroidism)
Surgery or radiotherapy treatment can affect the thyroid gland, which is near the larynx. You will have blood tests to monitor your thyroxine levels. If you develop this condition, you will be given thyroxine tablets.
This is a collection of a fluid called lymph that causes swelling in the neck. This can develop when lymph nodes have been removed or damaged by surgery or radiotherapy. The earlier that lymphoedema is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat, so always let your doctor or nurse know if you have any swelling.
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Complementary therapies may help you to feel better, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve some treatment side effects.
Relaxation, counselling and psychological support are available at many cancer treatment hospitals. Some hospitals also offer visualisation, massage, reflexology, aromatherapy and hypnotherapy. Therapies are sometimes available through cancer support groups or your GP. Many complementary therapists have private practices.