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Vocal Cord Damage

FenwayS
Posts: 11
Joined: Jun 2005

Hello everyone. It has been a while and I hope you are all feeling and doing well.

I would like to know if anyone has experienced the following and if so, can you tell me of your experience and offer any advice?

Apparently I suffered damage to my vocal cords during my July total thyroidectomy. I am unable to speak at times, others no louder than a whisper. Sometimes my voice is okay but not very strong. I have no range and cannot raise my voice at all. I also have difficulty swallowing and cough/gag/choke often.

I have seen two Otolaryngologists in the past two weeks. I was told by one that I have a paralyzed vocal cord and that I must have surgery in order to protect my airway and lungs. He also said that I will not get my normal speaking voice back and will never sing again. (As a singer this news hit me hard.)

I was told by the other that I should have the same surgery but that I need a few other things done as well. He told me that those other things will enable me to have my voice back. This gave me great hope but now I am questioning everything. I do believe in the second doctor as I know the first made a big mistake (identified and scheduled surgery for the wrong vocal cord), and the second doctor is also a renowned surgeon in Boston. But I am afraid of having surgery again for many reasons.

I am seeking a remedy or at least help in alternative medicines. I have recently spoken with a homeopathic nurse who says she cannot help but knows a person who can, using therapies consisting of accupuncture, lasers, magnets, etc. I know it sounds a little off but I would be willing to try it. It's a fraction of the cost of surgery and a far shorter investment in time. Does anyone have any experience with something like this? Am I crazy? Any advice?? Has anyone had the surgery? Are you happy with that decision? Did you get your voice back? Any information is appreciated.

Thanks so much,

Fen

AuthorUnknown
Posts: 1563
Joined: May 2006

Hello,

You may want to do a search of the CSN website to see if you can find information on this subject. To do this, enter search terms relevant to this issue in the search bar at the top of this page. If you find someone you would like to contact you can do so through the internal CSN email. I wish you the best.

Take care and be well,

Dana
CSN Dana

Rustifox's picture
Rustifox
Posts: 131
Joined: Mar 2005

I have not experienced this personally, Fen, but there are some members of this group that have;
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Thyca/

Some have undergone surgery to assist; some have worked with speech pathologists to learn how to 'train' the vocal cord to work again, and some have seen spontaneous remission of the paralysis.

Quite frankly, I would stay away from anything that is not medically sound or recommended. It may do further damage, rather than assist, and hamper any possibility of recovering what may be available.

Speech pathologists can help immensely. It is imperative that you do NOT whisper, if at all possible, as this can also do more damage, as I understand it. There is also therapy available through registered sources such as this:
http://www.vitalstim.com/indexflash.asp

Do consider joining Thyca, Fen, if you haven't already. It's free, and you can share wisdom with others in your shoes, some who have expertise on the surgeries and therapies available.

If you are having swallowing difficulties at times, here is a bookmarked message from that group that may have some ideas for you:
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Thyca/message/98785

Sorry I can't help more, but don't give up - there are solutions, we just need to get you in touch with the people who know them.

FenwayS
Posts: 11
Joined: Jun 2005

Thank you Dana and Rustifox. I will follow up on your advice. I appreciate all the links. I am sure to find some information that will help one way or another.

Thanks again,
Fen

mcg1
Posts: 10
Joined: May 2003

Fen,
I've just returned to viewing CSN and noticed your message. I have bilateral vocal cord paralysis as a result of a second surgery that removed the second half of my thyroid. I have had VCP since 5/03. I live in the NY/PA area and have been to numerous specialists for options for the condition. I have a voice, although squeeky and not very strong, my difficulty is breathing. My VC are in the shut position leaving only an 1/8th inch opening in the airway. I have refused a treach for various reasons. The only solution I have discovered is an operation to cut one cord and attach it to the side of the airway in a permanent position, leaving a greater opening between the cords which would allow for normal air intake. HOWEVER, there is no assurance of any voice after the operation and the operation is not reversable. Speech therapists will only teach one to breathe more effectively. Accupuncture is not effective because the "nerve of life" which controls breathing and the vocal cords is dead. This is not reversable.
The "good news" is that you may not have "permanently" damaged vocal cords. Following thyroidectomy or neck trauma, vocal cord damage can reverse on its own between 2 weeks and 1 year.
Please keep in touch to update us.
MCG

jmathews
Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2008

Fen,
How are you feeling now? I just had a total thyroidectomy 4 weeks ago and I can only whisper for a very short period of time. I was just wondering if you can give me any advise.
Thanks
Jeny

itamurphy
Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2009

Hello Fen and Jeny,

How are you feeling now? I just had a total thyroidectomy on the 21st September 2009 in London Hospital and I can only whisper. I try to be optimistic about my voice back to normal but unknown make me anxious. I hope you can share with me as well.

Thank you in advance,
Ita

pk4health
Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2008

I have gotten a sluggish vocal cord since my thyroidectomy I cough after drinking a large portion of the time. He said I should recover within a month . My voice changes alot , and when I try to call my dogs in it doesn't work. I am very frustrated with this . It has only been 2 weeks but the vocal cord keeps contracting and it makes me feel like I'm choking. As a yoga teacher, I learned that if I drop my head back and take extremely large breaths in through my mouth the choking sensation subsides. This condition didn't appear until 3 days after surgery

Kairol Rosenthal's picture
Kairol Rosenthal
Posts: 4
Joined: Oct 2008

I had mild paresis to my vocal chords after my last surgery. I went to an ent who diagnosed the paresis and then prescribed vocal chord therapy with a speech therapist. I went weekly for about two months and did exercises at home. I learned how to breathe differently and how to get more power out of my voice with less effort. It was extremely helpful. They told me that there is only a window of time for improvement, so my advice is if you consider this to be a problem, get it check out by a voice specialist sooner rather than later. Surgeons then to scoff off the problem because they do not want to be blamed for it.

virgo139
Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2008

I was blessed to have a total thyroidectomy in September 2007 at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary with Dr. Gregory Randolph. I was hooked up to a monitor before going up to the operating room and met the man who would have the sole responsibility of monitoring my vocal cords during the surgery. I understand that they are pioneers in this technology. I was amazed. As I result, I didn't have any damage to my vocal cords.

galinablanka
Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2009

Hello, everybody!
My name is Gala. I have read the posts here and decided to share my concern. I had a surgery n my vocal cords in 2003, the nodules were benign and I felt as if I were born again! It went really well and there were no complications at all. I am a teacher and 6 years after I am facing the same problem! My nodules grew back and it is taking forever to get through to a specialist in McAllen, TX. I have been emailing speech therapists back and forth for a month and a half. My appointment is on 16th of October, however, over the past two month I can tell for sure, my nodules became larger. The question is, should I consider the second surgery or what do I do now? Desperate doesn't describe the feelings and the state of mind I am dealing with right now! Please, share your thoughts, I am begging you!
Thanks a lot and have a great day!

lillypond
Posts: 3
Joined: Sep 2009

I'm new to this post and was wondering how you're doing? I had a total Thyroidectomy Sept 10th of '09 and having trouble speaking, and I have the cough and some trouble swallowing as well. Everytime I go back to my Doctor he ASSURES me I will get better. He did a vocal test the last time and he did say my right side was weak BUT that I will get better. I think they just hope you do. My voice is weak and by the end of the day, I'm tired form trying to talk. I sound like a squeaky mouse-HAHA! Anyway, my daughter that works for a plastic surgeon said he wanted me to go to a friend of his, ENT that he assures me can help. I live in TX and had my surgery done by a doctor(Dallas) that was highly recommended for my Thyroidectomy. He operated on Celon Dion's husband so I thought, Wow I won't worry about anything, and I got in only through a Doctor friend. I know he's good and I realize this is a risk, VCD, but regardless, surely something can be done to make it better.
I will be a month and some people say, "Give it time" it may take 6 months---I just can't see myself not being able to talk as before. Let me know how you're doing Jen. Oh I also had Pappillary Carcinoma, very small,like 0.3 CM,found that after that got in there. He said it was so minute that he wasn't even going to treat it. All my margins were clear and everything else was fine.

boodygirl30
Posts: 1
Joined: Apr 2010

Hello. I had a thyroidectomy in July 2009 and It's now April 2010 and I really do feel great, other than the left vocal cord that is still sluggish which causes me to have a raspy voice. I didn't think it would take nearly this long for it to come back but I just went to the surgeon again for a checkup and he is very confident it is getting better and that my voice will return to normal in time. It has imporved some over the last year so don't give up hope that it may heal on its own. I would wait on another surgery.. that one was a bit hard to get through physically and emotionally for me as I'm sure it was for you so hang in there!

jecklehyde
Posts: 33
Joined: Nov 2007

Hi. I had my PT and TT in December of 2007, RAI in Feb of 2008. I also heard the same thing from my surgeon that my voice would get better. When I told him I was going to the Thyroid Cancer Survivors Convention last October, he then told me that one of my nerves was damaged during surgery. At the convention, I was given the name of an ENT that specializes in voice disorders. He did some testing and found all my nerves were damaged. Some could have been from surgery and some from trying to compensate my voice for 3 years.
6 weeks ago, I had gortex implants put on both sides of my vocal cords along will some stretching of the crycoid cartliage. I am a new person! I can now speak again, sing etc. I didn't realize how depressed I was the last three years because of my voice. This was the best thing I ever did and I am forever grateful.

gz2
Posts: 1
Joined: May 2010

I had my thyroid removed in 2 surgeries. One in Aug 2009 (Right side Enlarged and thought to be cancerous) Left side in February 2010 (because right side biopsy revealed cancer) I had trouble breathing and swallowing before the removal. That's how I found out about the thyroid trouble. Tryin to figure out the reason for the trouble breathing and swallowing.
After surgery an ENT said that I have paralysis of the right vocal chord, which is the side that had the enlarged thyroid. He said that the vocal chord will probably never heal and that I must deal with the effects which are trouble breathing and swallowing. He also mention surgery to open the right vocal chord a bit, which would give me better air flow, but would also potentially cause me problems choking when drinking so I've opted to just live with what I got. The biggest problem is that I was a fairly decent athlete and because of the restricted airflow, I can no longer participate in fully in athletic activities. That's the biggest drag for me.

melwhite2980
Posts: 3
Joined: May 2010

I too was diagnosed with papillary carcinoma about 2 years ago and found out after thyroidectomy, one of my vocal cords had been damaged and so I saw a otorhynolaryngologist and had what they called a thyroidplasty to repair left vocal cord. Well, that has been about 1 year and a half ago and everything seemed to be fine, but now i found my voice is messing up a lot and in the mornings when I wake up I can barely speak and throughout the day my voice cracks. Should I go back to my otorhinolarnygologist to have him check it out or am I worrying for nothing?

skcalkins
Posts: 39
Joined: May 2010

Mel,
I would have it check it just because thats what I would do. I was lucky because my surgeon said that he had to stretch my nerve around my vocal cord since my thyroid or noduce seemed to be stuck to everything. He was very happy to hear me talking so well after surgery. I'll keep you in my prayers, best of luck.

melwhite2980
Posts: 3
Joined: May 2010

thank u so much for your input, I made appointment with specialist today and am suppost to go in on the 24th of this month.

jecklehyde
Posts: 33
Joined: Nov 2007

Good Luck Mel. I am glad you are having it checked again. Sometimes after thyroidplasty, you need adjustments. I don't know if you had the implants or just the injections, but either way you should be able to be helped.

Let us know what the specialist says.

grateful1
Posts: 81
Joined: Jun 2010

I AM A BROADCASSTER. MY VOICE CAME OUT HOARSE. I WAS TOLD BECUZ SOME DRS THOUGHT (MISTKAKENLY I HAD I MIGHT HAVE ANAPLASTIC I WOULD HAVE LOST USE OF MY VOCAL CORDS BY NOW. MY SURGEONS OPERATED HRS IN VEIN AND SAID IT WAS HARD TO STOP SHORT OF REMOVING MY THYROID AND TUMOR AS THEY FELT IT WOULD MAKE ME LOSE MY VOICE. BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS I JUST DID TWO TALK SHOWS AND NOBODY NOTICED THE DIFFERENCE MY VOICE HAS ALMOST RETURNED TO NORMAL. THE DR SAID ALSO THERAPY COULD HELP. I STILL RECALL FELIX UNGER'S PARTER-NAME ESCAPE ME AT THE MOMENT. HE WENT BACK TO WORK WITH A DISTORED VOICE.

PLS DON'T GET ME WRONG. I AM NOT MAKING LIGHT OF YOUR DISTRESSING SITUATION. YES, I WOULD TRY ANYTHING TO RESTORE MY VOICE BUT I WOULD BE EXTRA CAREFUL WHO I LET TOUCH ME THERE.I WISH YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART YOU GET BACK TO NORMAL. I UNDERSTAND. DRS. AT COLUMBIA I HEAR ANYWAY HAVE SOME EXPERIENCE ALONG THAT LINE. ALSO DR MITCHELL GAYNOR, WHO I ADORE PRACTICES INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE AND WOULD PROBABLY BE OPEN TO DIRECTING YOU. I REALLY DON'T LIKE DIRECTING ANYONE--I ONLY WISH YOU WELL AND CONTINUE TO DO RESEARCH. I AM SURE YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

whiteangel0106
Posts: 2
Joined: Aug 2010

I had vocal cord paralysis. Seems my cancer was " sticky " according to my surgeon & it was sticking to my vocal cord. The moment he touched my vocal cord to remove the cancer he said my vocal cord " seized up ", hence the paralysis. I had to have radiase injected into my vocal cord, and had to go to speech therapy 3 times a week for 4 months. Speech therapy helped me so much. My speech therapist saved me from a second vocal cord surgery. I am a singer also. After surgery I sounded like Minnie Mouse and couldn't speak louder than a whisper and would get short of breath while speaking.
Good luck...

veronica57
Posts: 98
Joined: May 2010

My right vocal cord was paralyzed also. My voice is somewhat hoarse, and I cannot yell either. I also get short of breath when I talk most of the time. Like you, I also get strangled if I am not careful swallowing. I saw an ENT. He referred me to an Oto surgeon. But my endo advised me not to go through with the surgery until the cancer is gone. Even though, I had a total thyroidectomy, I had a mestastasis to my lungs. I'm taking chemo pills presently. But I want to eventually have my voice corrected. I am afraid of more surgery also. However, I think I would prefer that over accupuncture:) Good luck and best wishes.

alapah's picture
alapah
Posts: 259
Joined: Oct 2009

so i feel for you veronica. i get short of breath too. this is because my cord is stuck in a position somewhere towards the middle. this is good for speech and swallowing, but not so good for breathing because it creates a permanently constricted airway. the thyroplasty surgery done to help some patients involves building up the broken cord to make it fill in towards the center which means the other cord has less of an area to work to close the gap and create sound. they sometimes prefer to do an injection into the broken fold, creating the same results but being less permanent. i've had swallow tests done to ensure that i am not aspirating when i swallow and my last ENT visit showed that there isn't much more that could be done to improve my situation. I can talk but not yell. my voice also sometimes gets tired. still, i am grateful for the voice and swallowing capabilities!

veronica57
Posts: 98
Joined: May 2010

It's amazing how are cases are so similar. I am grateful that I can talk too. But my grandchildren get a kick out of the fact that I can't yell. They give me a hard time, and think they can get over on me. But I let them know that my voice don't work well, but my hands work fine:)

lilmonkeyshine
Posts: 10
Joined: Oct 2006

my voice was fine after my surgery over time i started having problems i lose my voice allot now i get hoarse easily and trying to sing it will just crack now and has no power
i think mine is scar tissue i had 2 thyroid surgeries I still love to sing at least till i lose my voice lol its frustrating I use to be a singer Take care and many blessings

katieg522
Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2010

wow... I cannot even tell you how glad I am to have stumbled upon this post. I can really relate to everyone who has posted. Especially those people that have had vocal chord damage during their tt. I had a pretty invasive form of thyroid cancer that had grown into my trachea, lymph nodes,and vocal chords, causing my surgeon to do a tracheal resection during my thyroidectomy. My voice (like many of yours) was hoarse post-surgury but after about 5 months it felt like it was at least kind of getting better...

Just when I was getting my hopes up about maybe regaining my voice, my doctors told me that I would need external beam radiation in order to ensure that the cancer was gone. I have been done with treatments for 6 months and my voice continues to sound like I have laryngitis. Fun stuff... as you all know...

The worst part of it all is that I survived all of this while planning a wedding and finishing my last semester of grad school and the only thing that I can think about is that my voice sounds like I am sick all the time. Who wants to have to explain your situation to every new person that you meet? People seem genuinely concerned so why make an awkward situation more awkward by saying "oh... I had cancer." Its just frustrating.

How have you all handled people asking if you are sick all the time? Have you found ways to make talking on the phone easier? Does anyone know of any other treatments that are possible to improve vocal function besides the ones mentioned before?

Again, you have no idea how happy I am to have found this post... :)

alapah's picture
alapah
Posts: 259
Joined: Oct 2009

my thyroid cancer nodule had adhered to my trachea and I too had 6 weeks of external beam radiation. as you may note from a previous post above, i have right vocal cord paralysis due to the fact that my right laryngeal nerve had to be severed in surgery since the cancer had encompassed it. my EBR was completed in December of 2009. every so often i have a crappy voice. in the past week i've had a weak voice and have to clear my throat a lot. sometimes talking lots just wears me out! good thing i was never a big talker...i totally agree that it can be very frustrating.
i have not done it but I believe there are specialists who can sometimes help patients in our situation with vocal exercises. I was taught swallowing exercises but never felt the need to pursue vocal exercises. in my EBR plan, the radiation oncologist tried to avoid zapping my voice box though i imagine the vocal nerves get a jolt in the process. it may just take a while for your functioning nerve to recover. have you spoken to your radiation oncologist or an ENT (ear, nose and throat specialist)?

wifflefrog
Posts: 32
Joined: Sep 2010

My mom had damage to her vocal cords, but her thyroid tumor grew into the vocal cords. But luckily with time hre voice has returned, she can't really yell though and its pretty sensitive when she's sick or around irritants. So I think it does depend on how the damage occurred and how long the symptoms were present.
My husband on the other hand had his symptoms for a few months and continually used the vocal cords thus his voice comes and goes. Yet his damage was because of the tumor from his parathyroid pretty much crushing the nerve. The only reason we even orginally caught the cancer was because of the symptoms we orginally saw in my mom. Of course things have gotten worse with his cancer and him losing his voice is so minor.
So good luck, maybe even check out a specialist for head and neck as they mentioned maybe my husband would have been eligible for some assistance with reconstruction to help with his voice. A speech therapist should be helpful too.

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