If laryngeal cancer is suspected, it is imperative to start the diagnostic process as soon as possible.
Laryngeal cancer develops in the voice box, or larynx. This area of the throat is responsible for talking and is comprised of different muscles and tissues. It is important to have any suspected laryngeal cancer diagnosed promptly since it is possible for it to spread and result in damage to the patient’s voice.
- Laryngeal cancer generally causes noticeable symptoms.
- Patients may have more treatment options in the earlier stages.
This form of cancer usually develops when cells that are healthy experience damage. As a result, they can rapidly grow, accumulating into a tumor. With this specific cancer, the tumors are found in the larynx. Smoking is one of the biggest risk factors for this cancer. However, other factors might also contribute, including:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Exposure to human papilloma virus
- Exposure to asbestos and other toxins
- Poor nutrition
- Issues with the immune system
- Fanconi anemia and certain other genetic disorders
In addition, there are certain lifestyle factors that might also increase a person’s risk of developing this cancer, including:
- Lack of vegetables and fruit in the diet
- A family history of the cancer
- Chewing tobacco
- Consuming large amounts of processed foods
Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer
This type of cancer generally produces symptoms that are hard to ignore. These may include:
- Hoarse voice
- Excessive coughing
- Neck pain
- Ear pain
- Neck swelling
- Breathing troubles
- Cough with blood
- Sore throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Sudden weight loss
- Neck lumps
To determine the best choice of treatment, patients need to first undergo diagnosis and staging. Once it is confirmed that this cancer is present, the doctor needs to determine how far it has advanced. Testing is done to see if it is localized to the voice box or if it has spread elsewhere in the body. If it has spread, doctors need to see how far and where the metastases are.
In the earlier stages, surgery to remove the tumor may be the best choice. Then, following surgery, patients usually go through radiation to kill off any cancer cells that might remain after removing the tumor. In some cases, radiation is enough to treat the cancer if the tumor is relatively small.
Chemotherapy is another choice for doctors and patients to discuss. This is used to kill cancer cells and there are different chemotherapy drugs to choose from. The doctor will evaluate the patient’s cancer and their medical history to determine which drug might be best. This can be used instead of surgery, along with radiation or as a combination therapy with surgery and radiation. If the cancer cannot be fully removed and symptoms are especially bothersome for the patient, chemotherapy might be used as a way to reduce the symptoms and make the patient more comfortable.
If the voice box is removed or damaged due to the cancer or the treatment, speech therapy, esophageal speech, an electrolarynx or a tracheoesophageal puncture might be considered to improve communication.