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Laser Cures Throat Cancer – Better Voice

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Until now, radiation has been the best treatment for early cancer of the vocal cords in terms of preserving the voice. Studies have shown that both surgery and radiation have similar cure percentages, in the high 90’s for this area. But patients have to deal with the side effects of radiation including dry mouth, firmness to the over lying skin, redness, and pain. Also, there is a safe limit to the amount of radiation any area of the body can tolerate so radiation therapy for any region of the body is a one-shot deal.

Lasers have been used for pre-cancerous lesions of the vocal cords for decades. Then photodynamic therapy was developed. This uses a drug, called a photoporphyrin, that is injected into the blood and selectively concentrates in the cancer cells. Then when the laser is directed at the cancer, the drug is activated by the light and destroys the cancer with greater efficiency and less surrounding tissue damage. The only side effect to this treatment is a temporary sensitivity to the sun. Photodynamic therapy for vocal cord cancer was first employed in the 1990’s. A review of the medical literature at the time showed good results, with 95% success rates, but it never caught on as a standard treatment.
Now, researchers in Detroit have done another study showing similar results. They presented their results at a recent researcher’s meeting. Hopefully, photodynamic therapy will become a standard therapy for vocal cord cancer given its excellent cure rates and minimal side effects.
Read more about the Detroit study at
Photodynamic therapy and the treatment of head and neck neoplasia. Biel MA. Laryngoscope; 1998 Sep; 108(9):1259-68.


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