Voice Box (Laryngeal) Cancer
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 benign tumor 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:
- Excessive use of alcohol
- Race: Black
- Age: 55 or older
- Sex: male
- Occupational exposure to certain air pollutants such as wood dust, chemicals, and asbestos
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Weakened immune system
- Laryngeal dysplasia
Symptoms may include:
- Persistent cough, hoarseness, or sore throat
- Abnormal lump in the throat or neck
- Difficulty swallowing
- Pain when swallowing
- Frequent choking on food
- Difficulty breathing
- Noisy breathing
- Persistent ear pain or an unusual ear fullness or sensation in and around the skin of the ear
- Unplanned, significant weight loss
- Persistent bad breath
- Coughing blood
Your bodily tissue may need to be tested. This can be done with biopsy.
Your internal structures may need to be viewed and examined. This can be done with:
- Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Total laryngectomy
- Partial laryngectomy
- Neck dissection
- Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)
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 use
- Protecting yourself from toxic exposures that have been linked to laryngeal cancer
Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.