Life after surgery for laryngeal cancer
If your voicebox has been removed, you will not be able to speak the way you did before. We have more information on communicating after surgery to remove your larnynx.
After a laryngectomy, you will breathe through the stoma in the front of your neck. You will need to wear a stoma cover all the time. This will help to protect your lungs from infection, prevent you from breathing in dust and fumes and warm the air you breathe. It will also help to reduce the amount of mucus that comes out of the stoma.
You might need to wear a stoma stud as well. This is a simple device like a button to keep your stoma open.
Coughing and sneezing
When you cough and sneeze, it will sound different because the air comes straight from your stoma. There may be more mucus than before your surgery but this reduce as time goes on. You can cover your stoma when you feel the need to cough.
Some foods may be hard to swallow at first. Usually this improves but it may carry on if your food pipe has narrowed due to surgery or radiotherapy.
Most people manage by eating softer foods, such as thick soups or stews, or having a sauce or gravy or plenty to drink with their meals. If you have a problem with swallowing, talk to your speech and language therapist.
You may feel self-conscious having a stoma and worry what people will think. It might take some time to come to terms with how you look after surgery. It may even stop you from going out and meeting people. Look after your overall appearance and wear clothes that make you feel good to help you feel more confident. Scarves, cravats and necklaces can disguise your stoma.
Bathing and showering
You must be careful that no water enters your stoma when you are washing, as it can cause a severe bout of coughing. Adjust the showerhead so that the water hits your body below the level of your stoma or use a shower shield. Your speech and language therapist will discuss this with you.
You will have to use a type of snorkel called a larkel if you want to swim after a laryngotomy. You need special training before you can use a larkel. There is a training course available in the UK. Larkels are only available with a prescription from your doctor or surgeon. Check with your insurance provider to see if the cost is covered by your policy.
Taste and smell
Your sense of taste and smell may be reduced. Your sense of taste usually improves a little over time.
If you need support, talk to your speech and language therapist or someone who has had a laryngectomy. You can contact our Support Line on 1800 200 700 or visit a Daffodil Centre for more information.
For more information
1800 200 700