Laryngeal cancer refers to a type of cancer that affects the larynx, also known as the voice box. It occurs when the cells in the larynx become abnormal and multiply uncontrollably, forming a tumor.
Symptoms of laryngeal cancer may include hoarseness, pain or discomfort when speaking or swallowing, a lump in the neck, and breathing difficulties.
Treatment options for laryngeal cancer can include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment can improve the chances of a successful outcome.
Causes or risk factors of laryngeal cancer
Several factors may increase the risk of developing laryngeal cancer, including:
Tobacco use: Smoking tobacco or using smokeless tobacco products increases the risk of laryngeal cancer.
Alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol consumption is also a risk factor for laryngeal cancer.
Age: The risk of laryngeal cancer increases with age, and the disease is most commonly diagnosed in people over 60.
Gender: Men are more likely to develop laryngeal cancer than women.
Family history: A family history of laryngeal or other types of head and neck cancer may increase the risk of developing laryngeal cancer.
Exposure to certain chemicals: Exposure to certain chemicals, such as wood dust, paint fumes, and other industrial pollutants, may increase the risk of laryngeal cancer.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection: HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can increase the risk of certain types of laryngeal cancer.
It is important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that an individual will develop laryngeal cancer. Conversely, some people who develop laryngeal cancer may not have any of these risk factors.
Symptoms of laryngeal cancer
The symptoms of laryngeal cancer can vary depending on the location and stage of cancer, but some common symptoms include:
Hoarseness or changes in voice: The voice may become raspy or weaker, or pitch changes.
Pain or discomfort when speaking or swallowing: This can be due to a tumor that is pressing on the larynx.
A lump in the neck: A lump or swelling in the neck may be felt or seen, especially if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
Breathing difficulties: The larynx helps to regulate breathing, and a tumor can cause difficulties with breathing.
Persistent cough: A cough that does not go away, especially if accompanied by other symptoms, should be evaluated.
Weight loss: Some people with laryngeal cancer may experience weight loss due to difficulty eating or swallowing.
It is important to see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms, as they can be indicative of other conditions as well. An accurate diagnosis can only be made after a thorough evaluation, which may include imaging tests and a biopsy.
Diagnosis of laryngeal cancer
Diagnosing laryngeal cancer typically involves a combination of medical and imaging tests, including:
Physical exam: A doctor will perform a physical exam, including a thorough examination of the neck, mouth, and throat to look for any signs of a tumor.
Endoscopy: An endoscope, a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera, is inserted through the mouth or nose to examine the larynx. This test can help the doctor to see the tumor and obtain a sample for biopsy.
Biopsy: A sample of tissue is taken from the larynx and examined under a microscope to determine if it is cancerous.
Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI, or PET scans can help to determine the size and location of the tumor and if it has spread to other parts of the body.
Based on the results of these tests, the doctor will determine the stage of cancer, which will help to guide treatment options.
In some cases, additional tests may be needed to determine the best course of action.
It is important to work closely with a healthcare team to ensure an accurate and prompt diagnosis.
Treatment of laryngeal cancer
The treatment of laryngeal cancer depends on several factors, including the size and location of the tumor, the stage of cancer, and the patient’s overall health. The main treatment options for laryngeal cancer include:
Surgery: Depending on the location and size of the tumor, surgery may be performed to remove cancer. This can involve removing part or all of the larynx (laryngectomy), or the removal of a smaller portion of the larynx (partial laryngectomy).
Radiation treatment is the employment of high-energy beams to eliminate cancer cells. This can be used on its own or in conjunction with surgery.
Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals to eliminate cancer cells. This can be used independently or in conjunction with radiation therapy.
Voice rehabilitation: After treatment, some patients may require voice rehabilitation to help restore their voice. This may involve speech therapy, voice prosthesis, or other techniques.
It is essential to work closely with a healthcare team to determine the best course of treatment.
A multidisciplinary approach, including a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, may be recommended for some patients. The treatment plan will be tailored to meet the individual needs of each patient.
If you suspect you may have laryngeal cancer or have been diagnosed with the condition, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. The following steps can help you to get started:
Schedule an appointment with a doctor: Your primary care physician or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist can evaluate your symptoms and refer you to a specialist if necessary.
Get a diagnosis: The doctor may perform a physical exam, imaging tests, and a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Seek a second opinion: If you have been diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, it may be helpful to seek a second opinion from another specialist to confirm the diagnosis and treatment plan.
Meet with a treatment team: Depending on the stage and location of cancer, you may be referred to a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including a surgeon, radiation oncologist, and medical oncologist.
Choose a treatment plan: Your healthcare team will recommend a treatment plan based on the stage and location of your cancer, as well as your overall health. You may need to weigh the benefits and risks of each option to determine what is best for you.
Begin treatment: After deciding on a treatment plan, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. Early treatment can increase the chances of a successful outcome.
It is important to remember that everyone’s experience with laryngeal cancer is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It is important to work closely with your healthcare team to determine the best course of action for you.