Laryngeal Cancer: The Basics
The larynx is your voice box. It helps make your voice and protects your airway when you swallow. Laryngeal cancer is cancer that starts in the larynx. It is caused by laryngeal cells growing out of control. As the number of cells grows, they form into a tumor.
Laryngeal cancer that has spread from the larynx to another part of the body is called metastatic cancer.
Risk factors include:
- Long-term irritation from laryngitis or voice abuse.
- Reflux of stomach acid into the throat.
- Drinking alcohol.
- Having been around chemicals like wood dust, nitrogen mustard, and asbestos.
Signs of Laryngeal Cancer
The signs of laryngeal cancer depend on where in the larynx the cancer is. Some signs include:
- Hoarse voice or any change in your voice.
- Trouble with swallowing.
- Lump or bump in the neck.
Diagnosis of Laryngeal Cancer
When your healthcare providers think you may have laryngeal cancer, they will do a full exam and ask you about your health. They will pay close attention to check your neck for lumps or bumps. They will also order tests. Here are some of the tests:
These tests are important but a biopsy is the only way to know for sure if you have cancer. A biopsy:
- Looks at a piece of the larynx for cancer cells.
- Is used to find out the cancer type, how normal it is [grade], and if it has spread.
A pathology report sums up these results and is sent to your healthcare provider, typically 5-10 days after the biopsy. This report is an important part of planning your treatment. You can ask for a copy of your report for your records.
Staging Laryngeal Cancer
To guide treatment, laryngeal cancer is "staged." This stage is based on:
- Size and location of the tumor.
- Whether cancer cells are in the lymph nodes.
- Whether cancer cells are in other parts of the body.
Stages range from stage I (smallest, most confined tumors) to stage IV (tumors that have spread to other parts of the body, also called metastatic cancer). The stage and type of laryngeal cancer will guide your treatment plan.
Often, these treatments are used:
- Surgery: Can be used to remove all or as much as possible of the cancer.
- Radiation: The use of high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells, can be used by itself or with surgery or chemotherapy.
- Chemotherapy: The use of medications to kill cancer cells, can be used.
- Chemoradiation: The use of chemotherapy and radiation at the same time, works better than either one being given alone.
This article is a basic guide to laryngeal cancer. You can learn more about your type of laryngeal cancer and treatment by using the links below.
Resources for More Information: Head and Neck Cancers
Surgical Procedures: Surgery and Staging for Laryngeal Cancer