Women's perspective on life after total laryngectomy: a qualitative study

Klaske E. van Sluis*, Anne F. Kornman, Lisette van der Molen, Michiel W. M. van den Brekel, Gili Yaron

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Physical and psychosocial challenges are common after total laryngectomy. The surgery leads to lifelong changes in communication, airway, swallowing and appearance. As we move towards health models driven by patient-centred care, understanding the differential impacts of surgical procedures on subgroups of patients can help improve our care models, patient education and support systems. This paper discusses the experiences of women following total laryngectomy. Aims To gain an insight into the impact of total laryngectomy on women's daily life while identifying their specific rehabilitation needs. Methods & Procedures This paper is based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with eight women who had undergone total laryngectomy. These interviews were conducted with women at least 1 year after they had undergone total laryngectomy, and the participants did not have recurrent disease. Using an interview guide, participants were encouraged to discuss their everyday experiences, while also focusing on issues typical to women. The transcribed interview data were analysed by thematic analysis, taking interpretative phenomenological analysis as a lead. Outcomes & Results The interviews revealed three main themes: disease and treatment as a turning point, re-establishing meaningful everyday activities, and persistent vulnerability. Participants reported experiencing challenges in their rehabilitation process due to physical disabilities, dependency on others and experienced stigma. Women-specific challenges arose in dealing with the altered appearance and voice, performing care activities, and the spousal relationship (including intimacy). Conclusions & Implications Women who undergo total laryngectomy are likely to experience issues in returning to work, the performance of informal care-work, the spousal relationship, intimacy and social interaction due to stigmatization. Medical pretreatment counselling and multidisciplinary rehabilitation programmes should help patients form realistic expectations and prepare them for the changes they will face. A gender- and age-matched laryngectomized patient visitor can contribute to this process. Rehabilitation programmes should incorporate the partner and offer psychosocial support for women following total laryngectomy to return to their former roles in family life, social life and work-related activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-199
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Language & Communication Disorders
Issue number2
Early online date1 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • total laryngectomy
  • functional outcome
  • stigma
  • quality of life
  • women
  • qualitative
  • WORK
  • SELF

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