Laryngeal cancer is a cancer that forms in the larynx, the part of the throat that resides between the base of the tongue and the trachea. The larynx contains the vocal cords, which produce sound when air vibrates against them.
Laryngeal cancer has a number of symptoms including:
- Voice changes
- Shortness of breath
- Problems swallowing
- Neck masses
- Ear pain
Tobacco and alcohol use are risk factors for laryngeal cancer. The most common type of laryngeal cancer s squamous cell cancer.
The first step in diagnosis laryngeal cancer is a laryngoscopy. A laryngoscopy involves using a scope to get a better view of the vocal cords.
A laryngoscopy is a more reliable method of diagnosis, since some laryngeal cancers are so small they may be missed on CTs or MRI scans.
If a mass is seen during the laryngoscopy, a biopsy is performed to gather tissue for further analysis.
Laryngeal cancer treatment can be treated surgically, non-surgically with radiation therapy and chemotherapy, or a combination of both. Treatment is tailored to your unique needs, as well as the size and location of the tumor.
Minimally invasive surgery. Lasers, including carbon dioxide and KTP lasers, may be used to perform minimally invasive surgery for laryngeal cancer. Treatment for many tumors can be performed entirely through the mouth using a laryngoscope to remove the tumor. For disease limited to the vocal folds, no external cuts on the skin are needed and patients are often able to go home soon after surgery.
- Vocal fold removal. Some cancers require larger surgeries where part of the vocal fold is removed using a cut on the skin. The normal vocal fold anatomy can be restored with intricate muscle flaps to assist in preserving the voice.
- Voice box removal. A total laryngectomy may be needed for select cancers. In this surgery the voice box is removed and the throat is recreated to allow for normal swallowing. While patients are not able to make sounds normally, there are now numerous ways in which patients can produce speech which is intelligible.
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