Laryngeal papillomas are rare noncancerous (benign) tumors of the voice box (larynx).
Laryngeal papillomas are caused by human papillomavirus. Although papillomas can occur at any age, they most commonly affect children aged 1 to 4 years.
Papillomas are suspected when parents notice hoarseness, a weak cry, or other changes in the child's voice. Papillomas recur often and occasionally spread into the windpipe and lungs, blocking the airway. Rarely, they become cancerous (malignant).
Laryngeal papillomas are detected using a laryngoscope to view the voice box. Doctors do a biopsy of the papilloma to confirm the diagnosis.
Surgery is the usual treatment. Many children require numerous procedures through childhood to remove the tumors as they reappear. At puberty, some papillomas may disappear without treatment.
Last full review/revision January 2009 by Robert J. Ruben, MD