What is larynx cancer?
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.
What are 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.
- Sarcomas: These larynx cancers can develop in connective tissues, but they are extremely rare.
- Melanomas: Typically, melanomas develop in the skin. In some cases, melanomas can start on mucosal surfaces of the body. This includes the larynx and hypopharynx.
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
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:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Acquired DNA mutations from chemical exposure
- Some forms of HPV (human papillomavirus)
How is larynx cancer diagnosed and treated?
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
- Endoscopic biopsy or fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy
- CT scan
- PET scan
- 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.
Larynx Cancer Treatment at Baptist Cancer Center
At Baptist Cancer Center, we put the needs of our patients first. Providing patients and families with the best possible care is important to us, so we offer the supportive services you need, from understanding your larynx cancer diagnosis and our leading-edge treatment options to navigating insurance and financial plans. Our team of medical doctors and specialists is dedicated to designing an individualized treatment plan to help you fight your cancer diagnosis close to home.