Treatment of larynx cancer

Standard treatments

The main treatments for laryngeal cancer are:

  • Surgery
  • Radiotherapy
  • Chemotherapy

Your treatment will depend on the stage, grade and type of cancer cells you have. The stage looks at the size of your cancer and if it has spread from where it started. The grade of the cancer can tell if your cancer grows quickly or slowly. You can have a low, moderate or high grade cancer.
If you are a smoker or a heavy drinker, it is a good idea to stop. This will increase the chance of your treatment working fully. It will also reduce the risk of your cancer returning after treatment.


The aim of surgery is to remove the part of the larynx containing cancer. For more information, please see our Understanding Cancer of the Larynx booklet.


Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy rays to kill or shrink the cancer cells. These are aimed directly at your tumour.

Please see our Understanding Radiotherapy, which you can download from our "Important cancer information booklets" list on the right hand side of this page, booklet for more information on radiotherapy.

Learn more about radiotherapy.


Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to cure or control cancer. These drugs can be given on their own or with each other. Many laryngeal cancer patients receive a combination of two or three chemotherapy drugs. Chemotherapy can also be given before or after radiotherapy and surgery.

Please see our Understanding Chemotherapy and Other Cancer Drugs booklet, which you can download from our "Publications about cancer treatment side effects" list on the right hand side of this page, for more details.

Learn more about chemotherapy.

Advanced treatment

Advanced cancer means that your cancer has spread from the area where it started. If it spreads in the area around the larynx, this is called local spread. If it spreads to other areas of your body, including the bones, it is called secondary cancer or metastatic cancer.

It is usually not possible to cure advanced cancer. Treatment can be given to control the cancer and to improve your quality of life. These treatments may involve surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The palliative care team may also see you at this time. This team can help with any of your symptoms and support you and your family through your treatment.

Learn more about treatments

Side effects

The type of side effects you get will depend on the type of treatment, the dose, the duration and your own general health. Some treatments may cause symptoms like lowered resistance to infections, nausea or loss of appetite. Many treatments cause fatigue (tiredness). Your doctor will discuss any likely side-effects before treatment.

For more about side-effects, please see our booklet Understanding Cancer of the Larynx booklet as well as Coping with Fatigue and Diet and Cancer, both of which are listed under "Important cancer information booklets" on the right hand side of this page.

Learn more about side effects.

Clinical trials

If a treatment looks like it might be helpful, it is given to patients in research studies called clinical trials. Trials may be taking place at the hospital you are attending. If you are interested in taking part, talk to your doctor. He or she can tell you if the trial would suit you or not.

Learn more about clinical trials.

Date Last Reviewed: 
Friday, November 4, 2016