Heavy smokers more prone to ‘voice box cancer’

Laryngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that begins in the larynx or “voice box” where your vocal cords are. There are three parts of the larynx: the supraglottis, glottis, and subglottis. Cancer cells can begin to grow in any of these areas. People most at risk for this type of cancer are heavy smokers and heavy drinkers of alcohol.

Symptoms and diagnosis of laryngeal cancer

Cancer of the larynx often begins with dysplasia, a precancerous condition marked by abnormal development of cells. Dysplasia may advance to carcinoma in situ (CIS), in which cancerous cells are found in the lining of the larynx, but the cancer has not spread beyond this area. Cancer in this stage is still very treatable.

A person with laryngeal cancer may experience certain symptoms, such as:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty or pain swallowing
  • Ear pain
  • Hoarse voice
  • Lump in neck or throat

Although these symptoms are similar to those of many other conditions, they may indicate something more serious, especially if you are at high risk for this type of cancer. If you have symptoms that are concerning you, be sure to talk with your doctor. The doctor will perform a physical exam and review of your medical history, and may also recommend certain tests, such as:

Once the results of your test are back, your doctor will go over them with you. If cancer is detected, your doctor will also discuss your treatment options. Treatment for laryngeal cancer depends on the size of the tumor and the stage of the disease (how far it has progressed), and usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes, surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.