Laryngeal Cancer: What are the Signs and Symptoms?

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Laryngeal cancer symptoms may be caused by laryngeal (throat) cancer – a disease in which cancer cells form in the tissues of the larynx – or by other conditions.

Laryngeal cancer signs and symptoms.

Laryngeal cancer signs and symptoms.

The larynx is a part of the throat, between the base of the tongue and the trachea. The larynx includes the supraglottis, glottis (vocal cords), and subglottis. The vocal cords vibrate and make sound when air is directed against them. The sound echoes through the pharynx, mouth, and nose to make a person’s voice.

Laryngeal cancer forms in tissues of the larynx, the area of the throat that is used for breathing, swallowing, and talking. Most laryngeal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which begin in cells lining the larynx.

Laryngeal cancer forms in the tissues of the larynx (area of the throat that contains the vocal cords). The cancer may spread to nearby tissues or to the thyroid, trachea, or esophagus. It may also spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, the carotid artery, the upper part of the spinal column, the chest, and to other parts of the body.

Use of tobacco products and drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of laryngeal cancer.

Three types of standard treatment are used in treating laryngeal cancer:

  • Radiation therapy, a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells.
  • Surgery (removing the cancer in an operation) is a common treatment for all stages of laryngeal cancer. Even if the doctor removes all the cancer that can be seen at the time of the surgery, some patients may be given chemotherapy or radiation therapy after surgery to kill any cancer cells that are left. Treatment given after the surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy.
  • Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping the cells from dividing.

New types of treatment are also being tested in clinical trials.

Learn more about treatment for laryngeal cancer from Dana-Farber’s Head and Neck Oncology Program.

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