Radiation Treatment for Larynx Cancer

David I. Rosenthal, MD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
My mom, age 75 has chosen to take radiation treatments instead of having her voice box removed. She has stage 3 larynx cancer and is still smoking during treatments. What are her chances to be cured at this stage?  

David I. Rosenthal, MD, Director for Head and Neck Radiation Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Dear L,
Radiation can be highly effective for larynx cancer. Results depend on the specific primary tumor (T) and nodal (N) stages, the presence of tongue and cartilage involvement, as well as individual patient and treatment factors. Patient factors include other health problems, general well-being and activity level, and smoking history. Studies have shown that those who persist smoking after cancer diagnosis, especially during radiation therapy, compromise their cancer control and cure rate substantially. Many of those patients may be better served with surgery. Treatment factors include the radiation fractionation (standard once daily versus twice daily treatments), and the use of chemotherapy at the same time as radiation—which has now become a new standard. Patients and their families should discuss these issues with their treating physicians.