Voice Box Cancer
Voice Box Cancer
Cancer of the voice box, or laryngeal cancer, involves a change in the cells of the voice box from normal to uncontrolled growth. It generally starts at the surface lining of the voice box and proceeds to deeper tissues if allowed to grow if it is not treated. The most common risk factors for laryngeal cancer are smoking and drinking alcohol.
Patients with laryngeal cancer may note persistent and progressive hoarseness, pain in the throat, difficulty swallowing, or ear pain. Because of the hoarseness caused by most laryngeal cancers, they are often detected relatively early.
The diagnosis of laryngeal cancer can only be made with tissue biopsy. Biopsy, or taking a small piece of tissue for laboratory examination, is generally done in the operating room using a technique called direct microlaryngoscopy. The decision to go to the operating room is made by the surgeon after taking a thorough history, performing a complete head and neck examination, and performing laryngoscopy with possible stroboscopy. In order to assess how far the tumor goes and to ensure that it has not spread to other areas of the body, your surgeon may recommend performing a bronchoscopy, or examination of the trachea and lungs and esophagoscopy. They may also recommend imaging in the form of a CT (CAT) Scan or a PET CT scan.
Treatment for laryngeal cancer is designed to cure the disease while also maintaining quality of life. The main treatments for laryngeal cancer are surgery and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy is sometimes added for advanced disease. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, different treatments may be used. Surgical options can include Trans-Oral Laser Microsurgery, or TLM. In TLM, the voice box is viewed through the mouth and a number of tools including a laser are used to resect the tumor. For larger, more invasive tumors, a laryngectomy, or complete removal of the voice box, may be performed.