Treating fungal infection inside the artificial voice box may improve speech quality and help people with throat cancer who lose their larynx, a study has found.
Throat cancer refers to cancer of the voice box, the vocal cords, and other parts of the throat, such as the tonsils and the oropharynx.
During a total laryngectomy, the entire voice box (larynx) is removed and the windpipe (trachea) and food pipe (oesophagus) are separated from each other.
This operation creates an opening between the food pipe and the windpipe, where the voice prosthesis an artificial silicone device — is inserted to help the laryngectomised patients to speak.
However, these replaced voice boxes often get infected with Candida albicans — a fungal infection — that causes the devices to fail, said researchers from University of Kent in Britain.
By dealing with the fungal infection, the scientists were for the first time able to extend the life of the replacement voice box.
It means patients may be able to carry on using silicone voice prosthesis for much longer, enabling them to still speak and reduce the risk of dangerous secondary chest infections.
The study would enable people who lose their larynx to maintain speech and enjoy a improved quality of life, said Senior Lecturer Campbell Gourlay at the University of Kent.