Laryngeal Cancer (Cancer of the
What is laryngeal cancer?
Laryngeal cancer is cancerous cells found in any part of the
larynx -- the glottis, the supraglottis, or the subglottis.
Laryngeal cancer occurs most often in
people over age 55. It is more common in men and African-Americans.
Approximately 11,000 people are diagnosed with laryngeal cancer in the US
each year, and about 4,000 die of it.
What are the symptoms of laryngeal
The following are the most common symptoms for laryngeal cancer,
however, individuals may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may
- a cough that lasts
- a sore throat that lasts
- feeling of a lump in the throat
- trouble swallowing
- frequent choking on food
- pain when swallowing
- trouble breathing
- noisy breathing
- ear pain that lasts
- a lump in the neck
- unplanned weight loss
- bad breath
The symptoms of laryngeal cancer may
resemble other conditions or medical problems. Consult a physician for a
What causes laryngeal cancer?
The exact cause of laryngeal cancer is not known, however, there
are certain risk factors that may increase a person's chance of developing
Risk factors for laryngeal cancer:
Risk factors include:
- tobacco use
- alcohol abuse
- poor nutrition
- GERD - gastroesophageal reflux disease
- human papillomavirus
- weakened immune system
How is laryngeal cancer diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and physical
examination, the physician may carefully feel the neck to check for lumps,
swelling, tenderness, and other changes.
Two types of laryngoscopy may be performed:
indirect laryngoscopy -
a small, long-handled mirror is inserted into the throat so parts of the
larynx can be examined.
direct laryngoscopy - an
instrument called a laryngoscope is inserted through the nose or mouth.
The scope is a lighted tube, which provides a better view of the area
than the indirect laryngoscopy.
The larynx, often referred
to as the voice box, is a two-inch long
tube-shaped organ located in the neck at the top of the trachea
(windpipe). The cartilage in front of the larynx is sometimes
called the "Adam's apple."
The vocal cords
(or vocal folds) are two bands of muscle that
form a "V" shape inside the larynx.
The area of the larynx where
the vocal cords are located is called the glottis.
The area above the cords is called the supraglottis,
and the area below the cords is called the subglottis.
The epiglottis is a flap at the top of the
trachea that closes over the larynx to protect it from food that
is swallowed into the esophagus.
Breath enters the body
through the nose or mouth, and then travels to the larynx,
trachea, and into the lungs. It exits along the same path.
Normally, no sound is made by the vocal cords during breathing or
When a person talks, the
vocal cords tighten, move closer together, and air from the lungs
is forced between them. This makes them vibrate and produces
Source: National Cancer
What is a risk factor?
A risk factor is anything
that may increase a persons chance of developing a disease. It
may be an activity, such as smoking, diet, family history, or many
other things. Different diseases, including cancers, have
different risk factors.
Although these factors can
increase a persons risk, they do not necessarily cause the
disease. Some people with one or more risk factors never develop
the disease, while others develop disease and have no known risk
But, knowing your risk
factors to any disease can help to guide you into the appropriate
actions, including changing behaviors and being clinically
monitored for the disease.
A biopsy, removal of a sample
of tissue to be evaluated under a microscope by a pathologist, may also be
If cancerous cells are found, imaging
procedures may be used to determine the extent, or stage of the cancer.
Treatment of laryngeal cancer:
Specific treatment will be determined by the physician(s) based on:
- patients age, overall health, and
- extent of the disease
- expectations for the course of the disease
- patients tolerance for specific
medications, procedures, or therapies
- patients opinion or preference
Treatment may include one or a combination of
- radiation therapy to kill
cancerous cells or keep them from growing
- surgery to remove the
cancerous cells or tumor
- chemotherapy to kill