Browser does not support script.
Skip to main content
Find out how we produce our information|
Having a laryngectomy stoma may be frightening at first, but you'll be taught how to look after it until you are confident doing it yourself.
Some people who’ve had a laryngectomy| are very worried about the change in their appearance. You may feel embarrassed about the laryngectomy stoma, which can affect your self-confidence and may be distressing. It can take time for you to adjust, but help is available.
Your doctor, nurse and speech and language therapist in the hospital can give you expert advice. They can give information and support, and can put you in touch with someone in your area who has also had a laryngectomy to get practical advice.
The National Association of Laryngectomee Clubs| and the Cancer Laryngectomee Trust| have national networks. The support of a partner, family member or close friend can also be very helpful at this time.
After a laryngectomy, the air you breathe in through the stoma goes directly into the lungs and is no longer warmed and moistened by the nasal passages. The cooler, dry air going into the throat can irritate the lining of the throat and lungs. This can increase the production of mucus (phlegm) and may cause coughing.
It’s very important to keep the laryngectomy stoma covered with a stoma cover or filter. You’ll be shown different types of stoma filter while you are on the ward and will be taught how to use them. It’s also important to avoid getting any liquid into the stoma.
You won’t be able to sniff or blow your nose. When you cough, the mucus will be coughed up through the tracheostomy, not through your mouth.
After a total laryngectomy, your sense of smell and taste may be reduced. This is because you don’t breathe through your mouth and nose. This can go back to normal after a few months, although some people may have long-term problems. You may be able to have some sense of smell by learning the ‘polite yawning technique’, where you yawn with closed lips. This draws air in through the nose, allowing you to smell. It can also improve your sense of taste. Your speech and language therapist may be able to teach you how to do this.
Small devices known as stoma filters are available. They are also known as heat and moisture exchangers (HMEs). They can be attached over the stoma or put onto the tracheostomy tube to warm and moisturise the air. HMEs can reduce the production of sputum and help to prevent coughing and chest infections. Your doctor, nurse or speech and language therapist can show you these devices.
Hands-free valves allow people using a voice prosthesis| to speak without needing to cover the stoma with a finger. Hands-free valves are sometimes called tracheostoma valves. They aren’t suitable for everyone, but you could ask your specialist or speech and language therapist whether they would be appropriate in your case. They are available on prescription.
A laryngectomy stoma can make you more likely to get chest infections. If you notice any change in the colour of your sputum, or have a cough that doesn’t go away, it’s important to tell your doctor straight away. They may prescribe antibiotics for you.
Shower aids are available to prevent water going into the stoma when you have a shower. You can ask your specialist nurse or speech and language therapist about these.
Once you have a laryngectomy stoma, you won’t be able to swim without using specialist equipment. This equipment can be used to stop water from going into the stoma. It’s only available through the National Association of Laryngectomee Clubs|, which give training to make sure that people use the equipment safely.
Content last reviewed: 1 April 2011
Next planned review: 2013
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
You can also follow us| on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
what are these?|