Radiotherapy treats cancer by using high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to normal cells. How and when radiotherapy is used to treat cancer of the larynx depends on the stage of the cancer.
Radiotherapy for early-stage cancers
Radiotherapy can be used on its own if you have an early-stage laryngeal cancer. Sometimes doctors advise you to have radiotherapy when surgery is likely to affect your speech or swallowing.
Radiotherapy for locally advanced cancers
If the cancer is larger or has spread to lymph nodes (glands) or tissue nearby, you may have radiotherapy in combination with other treatments. Radiotherapy can be given:
- after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of cancer coming back (adjuvant radiotherapy)
- after surgery, together with chemotherapy (adjuvant chemoradiation)
- instead of surgery, together with chemotherapy (chemoradiation)
- with a targeted therapy drug.
The aim of radiotherapy for early and locally advanced cancer of the larynx is to cure the cancer. This is called radical radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy for advanced cancers
Sometimes it isn’t possible to cure the cancer and the main aim of treatment is to reduce the symptoms (palliative radiotherapy).
Radiotherapy can be used to shrink a tumour that is causing swallowing or breathing problems. It can also relieve symptoms if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.