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 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 growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Laryngeal cancer is more common in men, and in people over 55 years old. It is also more common in African Americans. Other factors that increase your chance of getting laryngeal cancer include:
Laryngeal cancer may cause:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily tissue may need to be tested. This can be done with
Imaging tests evaluate the larynx and other structures. These may include:
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 therapy alone are the most common and appropriate therapies offered. For more advanced disease, either radiation therapy with chemotherapy, or surgery followed by radiation therapy are most the common.
Surgery requires removal of a cancerous tumor and nearby tissue, and possibly nearby lymph nodes. Surgeries for laryngeal cancer include:
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:
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
BC Cancer Agency
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General information about laryngeal cancer.
National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/laryngeal/healthprofessional. Updated July 31, 2014. Accessed August 14, 2014.
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2/3/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 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 August 2014 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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