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Statistics and outlook for cancer of the larynx

Men and women discussing laryngeal cancer

This page is about statistics and what they can tell us about the outlook for people with cancer of the larynx. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Statistics and outlook for cancer of the larynx

Outlook means your chances of getting better. Your doctor may call this your prognosis. With laryngeal cancer, the likely outcome depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is diagnosed (the stage). The outlook also depends on where the cancer is in the larynx.

The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check every section of this website. They are intended as a general guide only. For a more complete picture in your case, you need to speak to your own specialist.

We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wants to read this type of information. If you think you would rather skip this information at the moment you can go back to the start of the treatment section.

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics can't tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating laryngeal cancer section.

 

About the information on this page

This page contains quite detailed information about the survival rates of different stages of laryngeal cancer. We have included it because many people have asked us for this. But not everyone with cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then perhaps you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.

Please note that there are no national statistics for different stages of cancer or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check each section of this website. We give statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and cannot tell you exactly what will happen to you.

 

Cancer statistics in general

Our cancer statistics section  has a page about different types of cancer statistics. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics, it might help to read this before you read the statistics below.

Remember that statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They cannot predict exactly what will happen to you. No two people are exactly alike and the response to treatment varies from one person to another.

You should feel free to ask your doctor about your prognosis, but not even your doctor can tell you for sure what will happen. You may hear your doctor use the term 5 year survival. It means the number of people in research who are still alive 5 years after their cancer was diagnosed and treated. This doesn't mean you will only live 5 years. Doctors follow what happens to people for at least 5 years after treatment in any research study. This allows them to compare how well different treatments work.

Doctors look at 5 year survival because if a cancer is going to come back, it is most likely to do so within this time. If a cancer of the larynx has not come back within 5 years, there is only a small chance that it will come back after that – unless you carry on smoking. Doctors don't like to say you are cured, because of the chance of the cancer coming back.

 

The overall outlook

There are only national statistics for men because there are so few women diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. Of all men diagnosed with cancer of the larynx, about 86 out of every 100 (86%) will live for at least a year. About 70 out of every 100 men (70%) will live for at least 5 years. About 62 out of every 100 men (62%) will live for at least 10 years. They will almost certainly have been cured of their laryngeal cancer.

As with many other types of cancer, the outcome depends on how advanced your cancer is. In other words, the stage of your cancer. The outlook of laryngeal cancer also depends on which part of the larynx is involved. These statistics are general, for all positions and stages of laryngeal cancer. Fortunately, most laryngeal cancers are still in the early stages (T stage 1 or 2) when they are found. There are statistics on this page for early stage laryngeal cancer and advanced laryngeal cancer.

 

The outlook for early cancers

T stage 0 or Tis (carcinoma in situ )

This stage of cancer of the larynx is treated with radiotherapy or surgery to remove the abnormal cells. But the cancer cells can come back. If the cancer keeps coming back, you may need more surgery. Just about everyone with this stage of laryngeal cancer will be cured, if they stop smoking. More than 96 out of every 100 people (over 96%) live for at least 5 years with this stage of cancer of the larynx.

T stage 1 and 2 laryngeal cancers

About 60 out of every 100 people (60%) diagnosed with cancer of the larynx have stage 1 or 2 cancer. Treatment for this stage is radiotherapy or endoscopic surgery. With either treatment

  • More than 90 out of every 100 people (over 90%) with stage 1 cancer of the larynx live for at least 5 years
  • More than 70 out of every 100 people (over 70%) with stage 2 cancer of the larynx live for at least 5 years

Although the treatments work just as well in getting rid of the cancer, we do not yet know which treatment gives a better voice long term.

Glottic cancers

Most laryngeal cancers in the UK are glottic – that means they start in the vocal cords within the larynx. Glottic cancers tend to be picked up at an early stage, as they cause hoarseness very quickly. About 90 out of every 100 people (90%) with very early glottic (T1) cancers are cured with either radiotherapy or laser surgery alone. But most of the remaining 10 out of every 100 people (10%) will be cured with surgery after their radiotherapy.

For T2 glottic cancers, the cure rate with radiotherapy is at least 70 out of every 100 people (70%). At least half of the other people will be cured with surgery after their radiotherapy. So overall, the cure rate is about 85 out of every 100 people (85%).

 

The outlook for advanced cancers

T stage 3 and 4 laryngeal cancers

If you have T stage 3 or 4 laryngeal cancer, it means that the cancer is large enough to have affected the movement of your vocal cords. It may also have spread (metastasised) to your lymph nodes and possibly to other organs in your body. Although this only happens in about 5 out of every 100 people (5%).

Your outlook depends partly on how far the cancer has spread, including whether it has gone through the outer covering of the lymph nodes.

Again the figures vary, depending on where the cancer is within the larynx. About 1 in 3 larynx cancers start in the supraglottis. Some studies show that as many as 6 out of every 10 people (60%) survive at least 5 years after treatment with T3 supraglottic cancer.

Overall, the 5 year survival for T4 laryngeal cancers may be much lower, at about 1 in 4 people (25%).

The outlook is not so good for a cancer that has spread beyond the neck area to another part of the body. This can happen in a small number of people. If your cancer has spread to another part of the body, you can have treatments to relieve your symptoms, slow the growth of the cancer and give you a reasonable quality of life for some time. Few people with very advanced cancer live for more than a year, but this varies from person to person. If you have a very advanced cancer, you will need to talk to your own specialist to get an idea of the outlook.

 

Other factors

Other factors can affect the outcome of your treatment, apart from the stage of your cancer

  • Whether you continue to smoke
  • How well you are overall
  • The grade of your cancer – grade is how abnormal the cancer cells look under the microscope

If you carry on smoking after cancer of the larynx, there is a high risk that you will get a second cancer. Continuing to smoke can also increase the chance of side effects after radiotherapy, and it can affect how well the treatment works. Many cancers of the larynx have a high cure rate, so it is very important that you try to stop smoking. This can be very difficult when you are under stress but you can get help from your GP. There is also information on our news and resources website.

It is important for you to keep as well as possible. If you drink a lot of alcohol this makes it hard for you to eat well and look after yourself. Your body needs good nutrition to help you recover from treatment. So if you are getting over cancer of the larynx, try to cut down on your drinking and make sure you eat regularly and well. You can get more information about healthy living from your GP or the practice nurse at your GP surgery. You can also find information about healthy living on our news and resources website.

Reliability of cancer statistics

No statistics can tell you exactly what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. For example, the same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had. They also can't tell you how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. Many individual factors will affect your treatment and prognosis. If you are fit enough to have treatment, you are likely to do better than average. This is particularly true if you have advanced cancer.

 

Clinical trials

Research evidence shows that taking part in clinical trials may improve outlook. No one is completely sure why this is. It is probably partly to do with your doctors and nurses monitoring you more closely if you are in a trial. For example, you may have more scans and blood tests. There is more information in the trials and research section. You may also like to search our clinical trials database for larynx cancer trials. Select 'laryngeal cancer' from the dropdown menu of cancer types.

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Updated: 7 May 2014