Laryngeal Cancer- Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
There are many different types of cancer named for the organ or tissue or cells in which they start. When cancer starts to form in the larynx, it is termed as laryngeal cancer.
What is laryngeal cancer?
The larynx is made up of three parts, the Supraglottis (upper part including the epiglottis), the Glottis (the middle part that contains the vocal cords), and the Subglottis (the lower part which connects to the windpipe). Larynx cancer is a kind of throat cancer that can develop in any of the three parts of the larynx.
The American Cancer Society has stated that around 90 percent of people affected with stage 1 glottis (part of the larynx that) cancers survive for five years or more.
What are laryngeal cancer causes and the risk factors involved?
Like every cancer, this cancer is caused by the mutation in the genetic composition triggered by certain elements. But there are certain risk factors predisposing to laryngeal cancer.
Anything that increases the risk of getting a disease (in this case laryngeal cancer) is termed as a risk factor.
The risk factors involved in laryngeal cancer are:
- Smoking: Smoking is the number one cause of laryngeal cancer. When you smoke tobacco (cigarettes, pipes, cigars), the smoke from it passes through the larynx. This smoke contains chemicals that elevate the risk of developing laryngeal cancer.
- Alcohol: Consuming alcohol regularly increases the risk of laryngeal cancer. If smoking and drinking are done simultaneously (regularly) the risk elevates even further.
- Voice abuse: Long-term voice abuse like excessive shouting etc.
- Chronic infection of the larynx
- Dietary factors: Diet low in fruit and vegetables is also said to elevate the risk of laryngeal cancer.
- Other risk factors are family history, low immunity, inactive lifestyle, obesity, etc.
What are the laryngeal cancer symptoms?
Here are some of the symptoms:
- A sore throat that lasts for more than three weeks
- Change of voice
- Hoarseness of voice
- Pain when swallowing or trouble swallowing
- A cough that doesn’t go away
- A foreign body or sticking sensation in the throat
- Breathing problems
- A lump (mass) in the neck
- Sudden weight loss
- Blood in the spit or phlegm
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, then it is the right time to see a doctor or a specialist.
Laryngeal cancer diagnosis: How is it done
The diagnosis of laryngeal cancer begins with a study of your symptoms, personal and family history. Once cancer is suspected, the doctor performs a laryngoscopy where small sets of mirrors or telescopes are used to examine the larynx. In case of any abnormalities, a biopsy is taken and sends to the laboratory for further examination.
If the results are positive, then the next step is staging to see how far cancer has spread. Oncologists use the TNM system to stage laryngeal cancer where T refers to the size of the primary tumor, N refers to how far cancer has spread in lymph nodes and M refers to whether cancer has spread into other organs or not.
Depending on TNM staging, your doctor will advise a CT scan or MRI scan or PET scan. These scans help the healthcare specialist to identify how much is the inner extent of disease.
What are the laryngeal cancer treatment options?
The treatment depends on the extent of cancer.
- Early Stage cancer is effectively treated using LASER or radiation therapy.
- The advanced stage requires a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.
- Very advanced-stage cancer is managed with Surgery and a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.
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