Your larynx is often called your voice box because it holds the vocal cords that help you make sounds. The larynx makes the bump you can see and feel in the middle of your neck. Some people call that bump the "Adam's apple."
What is laryngeal cancer?
Laryngeal cancer is cancer that’s in your larynx.
Symptoms include hoarseness in your voice that doesn’t go away, a lump in your neck, and later on breathing and swallowing problems
It’s the most common head and neck cancer
Laryngeal cancer is more common in men than in women, especially men over 60
Smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol raise your chance of getting laryngeal cancer
See a doctor if you’ve had hoarseness that’s lasted for more than 2 to 3 weeks.
Locating the Larynx
What causes laryngeal cancer?
Doctors don’t always know what causes laryngeal cancer, but the biggest risk factor is:
Nearly everyone who gets laryngeal cancer is, or was, a smoker.
The chance of getting laryngeal cancer is also higher if you:
Are a man, especially if you're over 60
Drank a lot of alcohol for a long time
What are the symptoms of laryngeal cancer?
The symptoms of laryngeal cancer are:
A hoarse voice (or a change in your voice) that doesn’t go away after a few weeks
Throat or ear pain
A lump in your neck
Trouble breathing and swallowing
How can doctors tell if I have laryngeal cancer?
Doctors can tell if you have laryngeal cancer by examining your larynx. They'll put a thin, flexible viewing tube into your mouth.
Doctors may also do a biopsy (remove a sample of your tissue for testing). A biopsy is usually done in an operating room while you're asleep under general anesthesia.
If you have laryngeal cancer, doctors will see if your cancer has spread to other parts of your body by doing tests such as:
How do doctors treat laryngeal cancer?
Treatment depends on how much the cancer has grown and spread.
Doctors treat early-stage cancer with one of the following:
Laser microsurgery (using a high energy beam of light to cut out the cancer)
Radiation therapy Radiation Therapy for Cancer Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses beams of radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink cancer tumors. Doctors use radiation to treat many types of cancer, including head, neck... read more , especially if the cancer is on your vocal cords
These treatments usually don’t affect your voice.
Doctors treat more advanced cancer with a combination of treatments, such as:
Surgery plus radiation therapy, if doctors think surgery can remove all the cancer
Radiation plus chemotherapy Chemotherapy Chemotherapy is a drug that destroys cancer cells. Chemotherapy works by shutting down cell growth. But since all cells in the body grow, chemotherapy drugs also destroy some normal cells and... read more , if doctors think the cancer is too big to remove with surgery—this usually doesn’t cure the cancer but it can shrink the cancer and lessen pain
Side effects of treatment
Almost all treatments for laryngeal cancer have side effects.
Surgery done for advanced cancer sometimes removes all or a large part of your larynx. If your larynx is removed, there are methods to help you .
Radiation to your neck may cause:
Red, itchy skin
Loss of taste
Dental problems, if your teeth were exposed to radiation
If you have trouble swallowing after treatment, doctors may need to stretch open your esophagus. The esophagus is the food pipe that carries food from your mouth to your stomach.