Laryngeal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the larynx.
The larynx (voice box) is located just below the pharynx (throat) in the neck. The larynx contains the vocal cords, which 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.
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Most laryngeal cancers form in squamous cells, the thin, flat cells lining the inside of the larynx.
There are three main parts of the larynx:
Supraglottis: The upper part of the larynx above the vocal cords, including the epiglottis.
Glottis: The middle part of the larynx where the vocal cords are located.
Subglottis: The lower part of the larynx between the vocal cords and the trachea (windpipe).
Laryngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer.
Use of tobacco products and drinking too much alcohol can affect the risk of developing laryngeal cancer.
Possible signs of laryngeal cancer include a sore throat and ear pain.
These and other symptoms may be caused by laryngeal cancer or by other conditions. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
A sore throat or cough that does not go away.
Trouble or pain when swallowing.
A lump in the neck or throat.
A change or hoarseness in the voice.
Tests that examine the throat and neck are used to help detect (find), diagnose, and stage laryngeal cancer.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Physical exam of the throat and neck: An examination in which the doctor feels for swollen lymph nodes in the neck and looks down the throat with a small, long-handled mirror to check for abnormal areas.
Laryngoscopy: A procedure in which the doctor examines the larynx (voice box) with a mirror or with a laryngoscope (a thin, lighted tube).
Endoscopy: A procedure to look at organs and tissues inside the body to check for abnormal areas. An endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted through an incision (cut) in the skin or opening in the body, such as the mouth. Tissue samples and lymph nodes may be taken for biopsy.
CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.
Barium swallow: A series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach. The patient drinks a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound). The liquid coats the esophagus and stomach, and x-rays are taken. This procedure is also called an upper GI series.