Cancer of the larynx is the most prevalent non-cutaneous malignancy of the head neck region and its treatment presents a threat to both natural speech and survival. This study examines the manner in which two separate specialties in the same and different geographic regions vary in their opinions about the treatment of glottic laryngeal cancer. The goal was to define options available to patients and to classify controversies about optimal treatment which might be resolved in clinical trials. Questionnaires depicting different presentations of glottic larynx cancer were mailed to 1649 otolaryngologists and radiation oncologists in North America, Europe and Australasia. Half the doctors were asked to describe their preferred treatment for a patient while the others were asked to imagine that they themselves were the patient. In all the disease situations opinions varied significantly with respect to the treatment modality advised (whether to employ surgical or radiotherapy approaches) and in more extensive disease situations the intention of treatment also varied depending on whether a curative approach should involve conservation or loss of the larynx. Doctors also recommended similar treatment for their patients as they would for themselves. Apart from disease extent the most significant variables influencing recommendations were the physicians' specialty (P = 0.0001) and where they practice (P = 0.0001). These findings demonstrate diversity of opinion which is influenced more profoundly by the traditions of the specialties and geographic location of practice than by the reported results of treatments for laryngeal cancer. Convictions about optimal management have become barriers to the assessment of the relative value of different treatments and to ensuring that patients are fully informed about management options. The profession should regard as a high priority efforts to resolve these therapeutic conflicts which are associated with major differences in quality of life.