Speaking up to Save a Voice: New Surgery Creates a Vocal Platform

03.01.2011

I had no idea that voice sparing was an option. I had no idea Dr. Damrose was one of the few in the U.S. with the ability and skill to do this surgery.

-Jerry Young, patient at Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Edward Damrose, MD, Director of Stanford's Voice and Swallowing Clinic, checks up on Jerry Young with a gentle touch. Damrose used a partial laryngectomy to remove Young's cancer but save his natural voice.

Jerry Young, a retired engineer, is fully recovered from his larynx cancer surgery, with plenty of energy to get back into his home workshop, in full voice.

THE ANATOMY OF THE VOICE

- Vocal cords are two bands of smooth muscle located in the larynx, sometimes call the voice box
- The larynx is located at the top of the trachea, or windpipe
- Sound is created as air from the lungs vibrates the vocal cords

Protecting your vocal health

- Drink plenty of water, for its moisturizing effect
- Don't smoke. Smoking raises the risk of cancer and vocal cord polyps. Alcohol consumption by smokers also increases risk. As many as 90 percent of head and neck cancers are related to use of these substances.
- Keep your voice below the yelling and screaming level, which strains the vocal cords.

Laryngeal cancer

- Symptoms can include persistent hoarseness, difficult or painful swallowing, ongoing sore throat, difficulty breathing, pain in the ear, lump in the neck.

Common vocal cord conditions

- Laryngitis: an inflammation that can be caused by infection, overuse of the voice, inhaled irritants or gastrointestinal reflux
- Nodules: small, benign and callous-like growths
- Polyps: soft, benign and blister-like growths
- Vocal cord hemorrhage, paralysis or weakness

When to see your doctor

- If you have hoarseness or a change in voice that lasts for more than two weeks

Once you look at what you've got, it becomes very intuitive as to why it works and works so well. I'd like to see it more routinely offered, to preserve more larynxes.

-Edward Damrose, MD, Director of Stanford Hospital & Clinics Voice and Swallowing Clinic

I realize how lucky I am, lucky that the cancer was found early and lucky to have found Dr. Damrose.

-Jerry Young, patient at Stanford Hospital & Clinics

Jerry Young worked to build strength in his voice after his surgery. He jokes that his wife, Kersten (left), likes his new, lower volume voice because he can't yell at her any more. The two are active grandparents who love to travel.

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