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Concurrent chemoradiation is currently the accepted 'standard of care' for locally advanced laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers. However, there is a subset of patients not suitable for chemoradiation, in whom primary surgery is the best option. Speech preservation is of prime importance in these patients. Near-total laryngectomy is a voice-preserving procedure which can be considered as an alternative to total laryngectomy for selected patients with lateralised, locally advanced cancers of the larynx and hypopharynx. Although these patients are left with a permanent tracheostomy, lung-powered speech is maintained by way of a dynamic shunt created from the uninvolved tissues of the larynx. Since its first description in the early 1980s, the procedure has been shown by various authors to be oncologically sound, with high success rates. Unfortunately, the procedure has not gained wide acceptance due to perceived fears of surgical complexity. In this review, we discuss the various issues related to the procedure and we review the relevant literature.