QUESTIONS UNDER STUDY: Even today, some patients with laryngeal cancer present with airway obstruction necessitating an intervention in the form of either a tracheostomy or transoral laser debulking (TOL). Controversy exists as to whether such an intervention is a risk factor for poor oncological or functional outcome in patients who then undergo primary (chemo)radiotherapy.
METHODS: Retrospective chart review of all patients undergoing primary curative nonsurgical treatment for T3/T4 laryngeal squamous cell cancer at the University Hospital Zurich between 1981 and 2011.
RESULTS: A total of 29/114 patients had an airway intervention before initiation of (chemo)radiotherapy (21/29 tracheostomies, 8/29 TOL). Kaplan-Meier analysis showed no statistical difference in oncological outcomes between the groups with and without intervention (5 year overall survival: 52% vs 70%, disease specific survival: 73% vs 79%, recurrence free survival: 53% vs 63%). In functional terms, we report an overall functional larynx rate of 60%.
CONCLUSIONS: Airway intervention was not found to be a risk factor for poor oncological or functional outcome in this patient group.