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Laryngeal Cancer: Symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment

  • Posted on- Jun 10, 2016
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Laryngeal cancer is a type of throat cancer that affects the larynx. The larynx is your voice box. It contains cartilage and muscles that enable you to talk. This type of cancer can damage your voice. When not treated promptly, it may spread to other parts of the body.

What are the symptoms of laryngeal cancer?

Unlike other types of cancer, the symptoms of laryngeal cancer are fairly easy for many people to detect. Some of the most common signs include:

These symptoms don’t always occur with cancer. However, you should see an ENT doctor if any of these symptoms last longer than one week. The key to effective cancer treatment is an early diagnosis.

What are the causes of laryngeal cancer?

Throat cancer typically occurs when healthy cells sustain damage and begin to overgrow. These cells can turn into tumours. Laryngeal cancers are tumours that originate in the voice box.

The mutations that damage cells in the larynx are often due to smoking. They can also be the result of:
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Poor nutrition
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) exposure
  • Immune system problems
  • Workplace exposure to toxins, such as asbestos
  • Certain genetic diseases, such as Fanconi anaemia

Who is at risk for laryngeal cancer?

Certain lifestyle factors increase your risk of developing laryngeal cancer. These include:

How is laryngeal cancer diagnosed?

Diagnosing laryngeal cancer begins with a medical history. If you have potential cancer symptoms, your doctor will examine you carefully and begin a series of tests. The first test performed is usually a laryngoscopy. Your doctor will use either a small scope or a series of mirrors to examine your larynx.

If your doctor sees any abnormalities, they may perform a biopsy. A laboratory can test this small tissue sample for cancer.

Imaging tests aren’t a common method to diagnose laryngeal cancer. However, tests such as a CT scan or MRI can help your doctor to see if a cancer has spread.

What are the treatment options for laryngeal cancer?

Treatment will depend on the extent of your cancer. Your doctor may use radiation therapy or surgery in the earliest stages of treatment. Surgery is a common method to remove the tumour. Then, radiation therapy tries to kill any remaining cancer cells. Your doctor may prescribe radiation therapy alone to treat small cancers.

Chemotherapy is another type of cancer treatment. It can:
  • Destroy remaining cancer cells after surgery and radiation
  • Treat advanced cancer along with radiation when surgery isn’t appropriate
  • Treat symptoms of advanced cancers that can’t be fully removed

Your doctor might recommend an initial treatment other than surgery. This usually happens when the tumour is small enough to make surgery unnecessary. It may also occur if it’s too late for surgery to be fully effective. Either way, the goal is to preserve your quality of life.

More advanced stages of laryngeal cancer often require a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

What is the long-term outlook?

The key to treatment success is to begin treatment as early as possible. Survival rates are much higher when cancer hasn’t metastasized or spread to the lymph nodes.

Risks from cancer surgery aren’t uncommon. They’re more likely to occur if the cancer has had time to spread. Some people experience:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Neck disfigurement
  • A loss or change of voice
  • Permanent neck scars


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19-10-2016 11:42 PM

Many years ago I had the worst sore throat of my life. I had a raging fever, I could not swallow my own saliva, I could not stand up without help. I went to my doctor and was given a shot, antibiotics, and the regular stuff he always did that worked.

user profile image
17-10-2016 06:28 PM

I had a sore throat for about two months before my regular oncology checkup. It was in the right side of my throat and I didn't really notice it unless I was swallowing.

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