Treatment for laryngeal (larynx) cancer

The main treatments for cancer of the larynx (laryngeal cancer) are radiotherapy and surgery. You may also have chemotherapy, targeted therapies or immunotherapy.

About treatment for laryngeal cancer

People with cancer of the larynx are usually treated in a specialist centre by a team of healthcare professionals. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT).

For most people, the aim of treatment is to remove or destroy the cancer and to reduce the chances of it coming back.

Your treatment will depend on:

  • where in the larynx the cancer is
  • the size of the cancer and whether it has spread (its stage)
  • how fast-growing the cancer is (its grade)
  • your general health.

The main treatments for cancer of the larynx are:

Treatment may affect your speech, swallowing, eating and appearance. How much your treatment affects these areas is different for everyone.

Your doctor or nurse will talk to you about this. They will explain if this is likely to be short-term or long-term, and how they can support you.

We understand that having treatment can be a difficult time for people. We're here to support you. If you want to talk, you can:

Treating early stage laryngeal cancer

Early stage cancers of the larynx that have not spread to nearby tissue or lymph nodes can usually be cured with radiotherapy or surgery. Your doctor will explain if these treatments are suitable for you.

Treatment might include:

  • surgery using a laser to remove the cancer through your mouth – this is called transoral laser microsurgery or TLM 
  • surgery (non-laser)
  • radiotherapy.

Treating locally advanced laryngeal cancer

If a cancer of the larynx is bigger or has spread to lymph nodes in the neck, you may need more than 1 type of treatment. These treatments may be able to cure the cancer.

Treatments for locally advanced cancer may include the following:

  • A neck dissection

    A neck dissection is when surgeons remove the cancer, but also remove nodes in the neck.

  • Chemoradiation

    Chemoradiation is when doctors use a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It may be the main treatment.

  • Chemoradiation or radiotherapy after surgery

    Chemoradiation or radiotherapy may be used after surgery, to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back (adjuvant treatment).

  • Chemotherapy

    You may have chemotherapy on its own to shrink a cancer before surgery or radiotherapy.

  • Targeted therapy combined with radiotherapy

    A targeted therapy drug called cetuximab (Erbitux®) may sometimes be given with radiotherapy if chemotherapy cannot be given.

Treating advanced laryngeal cancer

If the cancer has come back, or is very advanced when you are diagnosed, you may have treatments to try and control the cancer and help with symptoms. These treatments may include:

Some people may need surgery such as a tracheostomy to help with symptoms.

Sometimes, it may not be possible to cure the cancer. The aim of treatment may be to control the cancer for longer and manage the symptoms. This is called supportive or palliative care. You may see a specialist palliative care doctor or nurse for expert help with your symptoms.

About our information

  • References

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our laryngeal cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at

    ESMO Annals of Oncology. Squamous cell carcinoma of the oral cavity, larynx, oropharynx and hypopharynx. EHNS-ESMO-ESTRO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up. 2020. Available from (accessed Jan 2022).

    NICE Guideline NG36. Cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract: assessment and management in people aged 16 and over. 2018. Available from (accessed Jan 2022).

    NICE Technology Appraisal TA736. Nivolumab for treating recurrent of metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck after platinum-based chemotherapy. 2021. Available from (accessed Jan 2022).

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Dr Claire Paterson, Consultant Clinical Oncologist. 

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 June 2022
Next review: 01 June 2025
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.