Larynx Cancer

Larynx cancer is a type of throat cancer. Find out more about the causes of larynx cancer and treatment options here.

What Is Larynx Cancer?

Larynx cancer is a type of throat cancer which occurs when the cells lining the larynx become malignant.

The larynx is the voice box. It is made up of the glottis, the vocal cords; the subglottis, which is the area below the vocal chords; and the supraglottis, the area above the vocal cords. Any of the cells lining the larynx can become cancerous.

How Common is Larynx Cancer?

In men, the number of new cases of larynx cancer diagnosed has been decreasing over the years. It is nine times more common in men than in women.

Early Signs of Larynx Cancer

A person should seek early medical attention if he has a persistent hoarse voice or a persistent sore throat, a painless lump in the neck, feels pain on swallowing, has difficulty swallowing, or has noisy breathing known as stridor.

As cancer can spread to other organs in the body, symptoms may affect the lungs or bones in the later stage of cancer.

Causes of Larynx Cancer and Risk Factors

Smoking is one of the most common risk factors associated with larynx cancer, while alcohol consumption is another risk factor.

Smokers who also drink alcohol have a much higher risk of developing larynx cancer than people who only smoke or who only drink alcohol.

Diagnosis of Larynx Cancer

If larynx cancer is suspected, the doctor will examine swelling or lumps in the neck. A flexible tube, less than a centimetre in diameter, is passed into one of the nostrils to the back of the throat to look for lumps or ulcers in the voice box and surrounding areas. Alternatively, an angled mirror that faces downwards is placed against the back of the throat (the palate) to examine the voice box and surrounding organs.

Treatment for Larynx Cancer

Early-stage cancers of the larynx are treated with radiotherapy and this allows the patients to have their voice boxes preserved.

About 70 percent to 95 percent of patients treated this way achieve local control — the disappearance of cancer at the primary site.

Surgery can salvage cases where radiotherapy fails. More advanced tumours may be treated with radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy, or surgery followed by radiotherapy. Patients who have had their larynxes removed by surgery can continue to speak in one of the following three ways:

  • oesophageal speech (using air from the stomach)
  • amplification by an electronic device placed against the neck while speaking or
  • having a prosthetic device inserted into the tracheostome

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