Laryngeal cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the larynx. The larynx is a tube-shaped organ inside the neck that lies between the throat and the windpipe. Its main function is to produce sound for speaking.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body—in this case laryngeal cells—divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to
malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. A
does not invade or spread.
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The cause of laryngeal cancer is not known.
Factors that increase your chance of getting laryngeal cancer include: Smoking
—the most common high-risk behaviorExcessive use of alcoholRace: BlackAge: 55 or olderSex: maleOccupational exposure to certain air pollutants such as wood dust, chemicals, and asbestosGastroesophageal reflux (GERD)—stomach acid that backs up into the esophagus and throat where it may come in contact with the larynx
Weakened immune systemLaryngeal dysplasia—a precancerous condition
Symptoms may include:
Persistent cough, hoarseness, or sore throatAbnormal lump in the throat or neckDifficulty swallowingPain when swallowingFrequent choking on foodDifficulty breathingNoisy breathingPersistent ear pain or an unusual ear fullness or sensation in and around the skin of the earUnplanned, significant weight lossPersistent bad breathCoughing blood
When laryngeal cancer is found, staging tests are performed to find out if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. For early stage laryngeal cancer, either surgery or radiation alone are the most common and appropriate therapies offered. For more advanced disease, either radiation with chemotherapy or surgery followed by radiation is the most common treatment given.
Surgery requires removal of a cancerous tumor and nearby tissue, and possibly nearby lymph nodes. Surgeries for laryngeal cancer include:
Total laryngectomy—This involves the removal of the larynx, including the vocal cords.Partial laryngectomy—In this procedure, the surgeon removes the cancerous tissue while leaving as much of the vocal cords as possible.Tracheotomy—To help with breathing, a hole is made in the neck below the larynx. This may be temporarily necessary after surgery, or permanently placed in the case of laryngeal tumors that are too large to be removed.Neck dissection—This involves the removal of the lymph nodes and part of the neck muscles to determine the spread of cancer.
the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. This may be external radiation therapy, where the beam is directed at the tumor from a source outside the body.
is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. This form of treatment may be given in many forms including pill, injection, and catheter. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body killing mostly cancer cells, but also some healthy cells. Chemotherapy may be used to reduce the size of a particularly large cancer.
Since laryngeal cancer is extremely rare in nonsmokers, the best way to prevent this type of cancer is by not smoking. Other measures you can take to reduce your risk of laryngeal cancer include:
Avoiding excessive alcohol useProtecting yourself from toxic exposures that have been linked to laryngeal cancer
The Merck Manual of Medical Information
. New York, NY: Pocket; 2000.
2/3/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Weller MD, Nankivell PC, McConkey C, Paleri V, Mehanna HM. The risk and interval to malignancy of patients with laryngeal dysplasia; a systematic review of case series and meta-analysis.
Last reviewed May 2013 by Igor Puzanov, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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