People who are most likely to develop laryngeal cancer are heavy tobacco users (both smokers and chewers) or people who consume too much alcohol. Prolonged inhalation of dangerous chemical fumes and secondhand smoke on a regular basis also increase the risk of developing laryngeal cancer.
Although this cancer can affect anyone, being male, African-American, or over age 65 can make a person statistically more likely to be diagnosed with laryngeal cancer.
Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer
While occasionally experiencing a sore throat is normal and not usually cause for alarm, a patient who notices persistent and prolonged throat irritation and pain should see a doctor for evaluation. Early symptoms of laryngeal cancer are usually mild, and early detection is critical for the best possible prognosis.
Other common signs and symptoms of laryngeal cancer include:
Voice changes like chronic hoarseness
A visible lump in the neck
Pain in the ears
Difficulty with breathing and/or swallowing
While any of these symptoms can be caused by less serious conditions, any symptoms that do not clear up in a timely manner should be evaluated by a doctor.
Diagnosing Laryngeal Cancer
The doctor will perform diagnostic tests in order to find out if cancer is present and decide how best to treat the patient.
Any of a variety of imaging tests may be performed such as x-rays, CT scans, PET scans, bone scans, and MRIs. Additionally, a laryngoscopy may be performed to help the doctor see exactly what is going on inside the larynx. If laryngeal cancer is suspected, a biopsy of the tissues in the larynx will be taken for further testing.
Once laryngeal cancer has been diagnosed, the doctor and patient will discuss treatment options that will be best suited based on the extent of cancer growth.
Treating Laryngeal Cancer
Laryngeal cancer usually responds favorably to treatment, especially if it is diagnosed and treated in its early stages. Radiation therapy is often used in the treatment of laryngeal cancer, sometimes in combination with chemotherapy and surgery.
Early laryngeal cancerous growths can often be removed during a non-invasive surgical procedure done with a laser inserted through the mouth.
For larger cancers, a more invasive surgery called a laryngectomy may be involved. During a laryngectomy, part or all of the larynx is surgically removed through an incision made in the patient’s neck. Patients who undergo a laryngectomy will usually need further assistance with being able to speak.
Any patient who has had laryngeal cancer should regularly be seen by their physician.