Frequently Asked Questions About Laryngectomy


What effects can I expect after total laryngectomy?

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.

Why is an opening in the neck necessary?

Before surgery, breathing and food passages have a common passage in the throat; further down they divide into the trachea (windpipe) for breathing and the esophagus (gullet) for carrying food to the stomach. If the voice box (larynx), which controls entry of air into the trachea, is surgically removed (laryngectomy), it is then necessary to relocate the end of the air passage as an opening at the front of the neck. This is called the stoma.

Will I always have to breathe through this opening?

Yes, this is your new airway and you will breathe as naturally as you always have without thinking about it. You may initially have a lot of mucous and coughing, but you will see at laryngectomee meeting that others cough no more often than persons who have a larynx.


Why should the stoma be covered?

  • For hygienic reasons: since the air is no longer filtered or warmed by the nasal passages, foreign matter such as dust or clothing particles, and even air of a different temperature may irritate the sensitive walls of the air passage trachea).
  • To help keep in moisture: when we exhale, we release moisture from the lungs. By covering the stoma, we help to keep that moisture in the airway, easing breathing and reducing the need to cough.
  • For personal appearances: an opening in the neck, exposed for all to see, may cause unnecessary surprise and discomfort to friends and strangers.

What are the different communication methods available after total laryngectomy

Please see our 2 pages concerning speech by clicking on the following links… https://liverpoollarrys.com/speech-rehabilitation/

and also… https://liverpoollarrys.com/voice-prosthesis-after-a-laryngectomy/

What do I do about chest infections?

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.

Will I be able to smell and taste again?

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.

What are possible long-term or late effects after treatment for laryngeal cancer?

  • Problems swallowing (dysphagia) – This can be caused by thickening (fibrosis) of the wall of the gullet (oesophagus), by narrowing of the gullet (stricture), and by a loss of sensation when swallowing. A speech and language therapist can provide help and advice with swallowing problems.
  • Low levels of the thyroid hormone thryroxine (hypothyroidism) – This happens when radiotherapy treatment affects the nearby thyroid gland. You will have blood tests to monitor your thyroxine levels. If you develop this condition, you will be given thyroxine tablets.
  • Lymphoedema – This is an abnormal collection of fluid called lymph that can cause swelling in the neck. It’s a rare side effect that can happen when lymph nodes have been removed by surgery and/or damaged by radiotherapy.

Will I be able to swim?

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.

Will I be able to work again?

Many laryngectomees have returned to their former jobs. The answer depends on many factors: your age, your health and the type of work you have been doing. The most important factor is YOU – your determination to recover and do what you feel is best for YOU.