Treatments for supraglottic carcinoma

The following are treatment options for the stages of supraglottic carcinoma. Your healthcare team will suggest treatments based on your needs and work with you to develop a treatment plan.

Stage 1 carcinoma of the supraglottis

Radiation therapy and surgery are the treatments used for stage 1 carcinoma of the supraglottis.

Radiation therapy given alone or laser surgery or a partial laryngectomy are treatments for stage 1 carcinoma of the supraglottis.

Stage 2 carcinoma of the supraglottis

Radiation therapy and surgery are the treatments used for stage 2 carcinoma of the supraglottis.

Radiation therapy may be used alone for smaller tumours and nearby lymph nodes or after surgery.

Surgery done for stage 2 carcinoma of the supraglottis includes laser surgery or a partial laryngectomy with a neck dissection.

Stage 3 carcinoma of the supraglottis

Treatment for stage 3 carcinoma of the supraglottis is often a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy may be used:

  • with chemotherapy given during the same time period (chemoradiation)
  • alone in people who cannot cope well with chemoradiation and surgery
  • after surgery

Chemotherapy may be used:

  • with radiation therapy given during the same time period (chemoradiation)
  • as the first treatment (induction chemotherapy) before treatment with chemoradiation

Surgery done for stage 3 carcinoma of the supraglottis is laser surgery or partial laryngectomy in some cases or a total laryngectomy with a neck dissection with or without radiation therapy after surgery.

Stage 4 carcinoma of the supraglottis

Treatment for stage 4 carcinoma of the supraglottis is often a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Radiation therapy may be used:

  • with chemotherapy given during the same time period (chemoradiation)
  • alone in people who cannot cope well with chemoradiation and surgery
  • alone or with chemotherapy after surgery
Chemotherapy may be used:
  • with radiation therapy given during the same time period
  • as induction chemotherapy before treatment with chemoradiation
Immunotherapy may be used to treat metastatic carcinoma of the supraglottis. Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) may be used as a first-line therapy with or without chemotherapy. Nivolumab (Opdivo) may be used to treat metastatic carcinoma of the supraglottis that has stopped responding to chemotherapy with platinum drugs such as cisplatin or carboplatin.

Surgery done for stage 4 carcinoma of the supraglottis is a laryngectomy with a neck dissection, with radiation therapy or chemoradiation after surgery.

Recurrent carcinoma of the supraglottis

Recurrent carcinoma of the supraglottis means that the cancer has come back after it has been treated. Treatments for recurrences include:

  • further surgery with or without radiation therapy after surgery
  • further radiation therapy for small recurrences for people who cannot have or don’t want to have a laryngectomy
  • chemotherapy
  • immunotherapy

If you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment

You may want to consider a type of care to make you feel better without treating the cancer itself. This may be because the cancer treatments don’t work anymore, they’re not likely to improve your condition or they may cause side effects that are hard to cope with. There may also be other reasons why you can’t have or don’t want cancer treatment.

Talk to your healthcare team. They can help you choose care and treatment for advanced cancer.

Clinical trials

Some clinical trials in Canada are open to people with laryngeal cancer. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, find and treat cancer. Find out more about clinical trials.

Expert review and references

  • American Cancer Society. Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers. 2014: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/laryngeal-and-hypopharyngeal-cancer.html.
  • Ferris, RL, Blumenschein G, Fayette J, Guigay J, et al . Nivolumab for recurrent squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016.
  • Mendenhall WM, Werning JW . Cancer of the larynx: General principles and management. Harrison LB, Sessions RB, Kies MS (eds.). Head and Neck Cancer: A Multidisciplinary Approach. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014: 18a: 441-458.
  • Mendenhall WM, Werning JW, Pfister DG . Cancer of the head and neck. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 38: 422-473.
  • National Cancer Institute. Laryngeal Cancer Treatment for Health Professionals (PDQ®). 2016: http://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck/hp/laryngeal-treatment-pdq#section/all.