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Home > Cancers We Treat > Head and Neck Cancer > Voice Box (Laryngeal) Cancer

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.

A graphic that depicts on one side the outline of a man the larynx is highlighted on the right is a detailed cross section superior top view of the the larynyx highlighting the epiglottis and vocal cords
The Larynx
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

The cause of laryngeal cancer is not known.

Risk

Factors that increase your chance of getting laryngeal cancer include:

  • Smoking
  • 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

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

Diagnosis

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:

  • Laryngoscopy
  • X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

Treatment

Treatment includes:

  • Surgery
    • Total laryngectomy
    • Partial laryngectomy
    • Tracheotomy
    • Neck dissection
  • Radiation Therapy (Radiotherapy)
  • Chemotherapy

Prevention

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.

Head & Neck Cancer Support Group

When: Last Thursday of each month, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Third Thursday in Nov. and Dec.)
Where: Fontaine Research ParkVirginia Department of Forestry, 900 Natural Resources Drive, Conference Room #1175
Cost: Free; parking validation provided
Contact: Paula Capobianco, MSW, 434.982.4091
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