Laryngeal Cancer

The larynx, also known as the voice box, is located in the front of the neck. It helps with breathing, swallowing and speaking by controlling the opening and closing of the windpipe. Abnormalities within the larynx can lead to the development of a cancerous tumor, which most often originates in the squamous cells that line the inner walls of the larynx. Cancer of the larynx, also known as laryngeal cancer, is the most common type of throat cancer.

Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer

Symptoms of laryngeal cancer may vary depending on the stage of the cancer but, in general, patients with laryngeal cancer experience:

  • Hoarseness or changes in the voice
  • A lump in the neck
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Cough
  • Swelling in the jaw, throat or neck
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Ear pain
  • Weight loss

Causes of Laryngeal Cancer

Although the exact cause of laryngeal cancer is unknown, certain people may be at an increased risk of developing it, including those who:

  • Smoke
  • Chew tobacco
  • Consume large amounts of alcohol
  • Have a personal or family history of head and neck cancer
  • Lack fruits and vegetables in their diet

In addition, recent studies have shown that laryngeal cancer may be caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. People suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may also have an increased risk of laryngeal cancer from the continual leaking of stomach acid into the esophagus and throat.

Diagnosis of Laryngeal Cancer

Laryngeal cancer can be diagnosed by a physical examination by a doctor, and a full review of patient's symptoms. Diagnostic tests may also be performed, and may include:

  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • PET scan
  • Laryngoscopy
  • Barium swallow
  • Biopsy

Treatment of Laryngeal Cancer

Treatment for laryngeal cancer may involve full or partial removal of the larynx, which is performed through a procedure called laryngectomy. If the cancer has spread from the larynx, the lymph nodes or other nearby structures may be removed as well. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are also commonly performed to treat laryngeal tumors, and may be used alone or in combination with surgery.

Additional Resources