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Larynx Cancer

Learn more about larynx cancer, including the various types, symptoms, causes, risk factors and treatment options at Baptist Cancer Center.

Larynx Cancer Explained

Larynx cancer, or laryngeal cancer, starts in the lower throat (voice box). The larynx contains the vocal chords and is one of the organs that helps with speech. It also keeps fluids and food from entering the windpipe.

According to the American Cancer Society, new cases of larynx cancer are decreasing by two to three percent each year—most likely due to fewer people smoking tobacco.

Larynx Cancer Treatment Options

Larynx cancer is usually discovered because a person experiences signs and symptoms. A doctor will need to perform a series of tests and exams to diagnose you with larynx cancer. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Physical exam and medical history
  • Exam by ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist
  • Panendoscopy
  • Endoscopic biopsy or fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy
  • CT scan
  • PET scan
  • MRI
  • Chest x-ray
  • Barium swallow
  • Blood tests

Larynx cancer treatment plans may include a single treatment option or several combined treatments. Laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancer treatments can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and a variety of follow-up supportive services.

The Different Types of Larynx Cancer

The larynx has three parts: the supraglottis, glottis, and subglottis. Cancer can develop in these sections as well as in the hypopharynx, a part of the throat located behind and beside the larynx. Cancers in the larynx and hypopharynx include:

Squamous cell carcinomas
Most squamous cell cancers start as dysplasia, a pre-cancer. Pre-cancers of the larynx cause problems when they’re located on the vocal chords. If untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can progress into nearby tissues and organs.
Minor salivary gland cancer
This cancer develops in the cells of tiny glands that produce mucus and saliva. Minor salivary gland cancer is rare.
These larynx cancers can develop in connective tissues, but they are extremely rare.
Typically, melanomas develop in the skin. In some cases, melanomas can start on mucosal surfaces of the body. This includes the larynx and hypopharynx.

Learn the Symptoms and Causes

Recognizing the signs of larynx cancer allows for timely intervention, potentially increasing the chances of successful treatment and improving your quality of life.

What are the causes and risk factors of larynx cancer?

The cause of most laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers is unknown. However, specific factors can increase your risk of developing the disease, including:

  • Tobacco
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Acquired DNA mutations from chemical exposure
  • Some forms of HPV (human papillomavirus)

What are the symptoms of larynx cancer?

Laryngeal cancers on the vocal chords can cause hoarseness or voice changes, and this often means they are found at an early stage. Cancers that start above or below the vocal chords don’t cause hoarseness. They are more likely to grow and spread. Additional larynx cancer symptoms include:

  • Persistent sore throat
  • Persistent coughing
  • Trouble or pain when swallowing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Ear pain
  • A mass in the neck

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Related Information

Connect With a Patient Navigator

As a patient at Baptist Cancer Center, you will have access to a dedicated patient navigator who will act as your advocate and liaison between you and your health care teams. Our patient navigators are available at every step to schedule appointments, answer questions, explain the treatment process, and provide resources, education and support when you and your family need it.