Decorative image

Referral to a specialist

Your GP might refer you to a laryngeal cancer specialist. Read about what to expect when you see one.

Urgent referral

Your GP should arrange for you to see a specialist within 2 weeks if you have symptoms that could be due to laryngeal cancer. This is called an urgent referral.

Who should see a specialist

There are rapid access clinics for people with a hoarse voice in many hospitals in the UK. These clinics have been set up so it's quicker to get an appointment. And quicker to get an early diagnosis of the problem. 

Your GP should consider referring you to a specialist if you're aged 45 or over and have:

  • a persistent, unexplained hoarseness in your voice
  • an unexplained lump in your neck

UK referral guidelines

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) produce guidelines for GPs in the UK. The guidelines help them decide who needs an urgent referral.

It's important when reading these guidelines to remember:

  • between 80 and 90 out of every 100 people (80 to 90%) diagnosed with laryngeal cancer develop a hoarse voice
  • difficulty and pain when swallowing are also common symptoms
  • it's an uncommon cancer - there's about 2,400 cases diagnosed each year in the UK
  • there's very few cases in people under 40

If you are still worried

Do remember that some of these symptoms are usually caused by other less serious medical conditions. They do not always mean that you have laryngeal cancer. A hoarse voice can be caused by smoking, shouting, singing or a throat infection, for example.

You could print this page and take it along to an appointment if you are worried that your GP is not taking your symptoms seriously enough. Ask your GP to talk it through with you. You may be able to decide together whether you need to see a specialist and, if so, how soon.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.