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Laryngectomy patient Rich Spanton pictured with wife Jenny

Leading research helps cancer patients 

Clinical staff at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (EKHUFT) are leading in research to help patients recover and have a better quality of life after having an operation to have their larynx removed.

The larynx – commonly referred to as the ‘voice box’ – is essential for speech, and adjusting the pitch and tone of speech. But removal of the larynx, usually following a diagnosis of cancer, means that patients require help in alternative methods of speech production.

Patients in east Kent who have had their larynx removed can have a silicone ‘voice prosthesis’ (VP) fitted that enables them to speak again. But until recently, patients were experiencing problems with their VPs – particularly with fungal infections (candida) that rendered the VPs useless in a very short time.

East Kent Hospitals Macmillan Speech and Language Therapist Sarah Stevens, said: “Candida is a yeast that we all have in our bodies, but it can attach to the voice prosthesis like barnacles to a ship, and this can cause the valve mechanism to fail.”

But thanks to extensive research – and collaboration between EKHUFT and the University of Kent – the problem of fungal infections has been tackled.  Patients can now manage their VPs without the need to visit hospital to receive specialist help.

East Kent Hospitals Consultant Microbiologist, Professor Fritz Muhlschlegel, said: “We have developed a clear treatment management pathway that helps patients.”

Laryngectomy patient and east Kent resident, Richard Spanton (72), said: “Before the treatment, some of the prosthetics were only lasting two weeks – and the longest was six weeks.”

But the research has made a huge difference for Richard. He can go months without having to worry about having a replacement, and describes the outcome as “brilliant”. 

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