Laryngeal Cancer

Overview

Laryngeal cancer, also called cancer of the larynx, is a tumor on the voice box (larynx), which contains the vocal cords. It typically develops in people age 50 and over, but it can happen at any age.

Symptoms

Laryngeal cancer symptoms may include:

  • Chronic sore throat or cough
  • Ear pain
  • Hoarseness or other voice changes
  • Lump in the neck or throat
  • Pain or difficulty swallowing

Diagnosis

To diagnose laryngeal cancer, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine your ears, nose, throat and mouth, and feel for swollen lymph nodes. 

Your doctor may also order tests, such as:

  • Barium swallow: A series of X-rays of the esophagus and stomach, also called an esophogram or upper GI series. It involves drinking liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound) that coats the esophagus and stomach to help them show up on X-rays.
  • Biopsy: A small piece of tissue that’s removed and examined in a lab.
  • Endoscopy: A thin, lighted tube is inserted through the mouth or nose so a doctor can see inside the body and look for abnormal tissue.
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy: A thin needle is placed into a lump in the neck. Cells are aspirated (drawn out) and examined under a microscope to see if they’re cancerous.
  • Imaging tests: These include CT, MRI or PET scans, and chest or dental X-rays that can help confirm the presence of a tumor and whether it’s spread to other areas.

Treatment Options

Laryngeal cancer treatment depends on a person’s overall health, how advanced the cancer is and whether it’s spread. Treatment may involve radiation therapy, chemotherapy or surgery – or a combination of all three. 

Treatments may include:

  • Radiotherapy, which uses high-energy radiation to treat the tumor. 
  • Chemotherapy, which uses cancer-fighting drugs stop the growth of tumors
  • Chemoradiation, which delivers chemotherapy and radiation at the same time
  • Surgery, which may include a partial or total removal of the larynx (laryngectomy)

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