Laryngeal or larynx cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the larynx. The larynx is your voice box; it’s a cylindrical grouping of cartilage, muscles, and soft tissue that bridges the gap between the throat and the trachea (windpipe). The larynx is crucial for breathing, swallowing, and speaking.

Cancer can develop in any part of the larynx, but the cure rate is very high if diagnosed early. Larynx cancer generally affects men over the age of 40 years, and major risk factors include smoking, heavy drinking, family history of head and neck cancer, exposure to certain chemicals and substances, poor nutrition, and some genetic syndromes.

Larynx Cancer

Symptoms of laryngeal can include a sore throat or cough that doesn’t go away, trouble or pain when swallowing, ear pain, a lump in the neck or throat, a hoarse voice, and weight loss. Treatment options depend on the size and stage of cancer, and can include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, or immunotherapy.

Causes of Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

Laryngeal cancer, also referred to as cancer of the larynx, occurs when the cells in the larynx undergo changes in their DNA resulting in their rapid and uncontrolled growth. These abnormal cells may form a mass or tumor in the larynx and may also spread to other parts of the body. However, the exact cause of the DNA mutations that lead to laryngeal cancer is not clearly understood. Nevertheless, the following factors have been associated with an increased risk of developing laryngeal cancer:

1. Tobacco use: This is the most significant risk factor for laryngeal cancer. People who smoke are more likely to get laryngeal cancer. The risk increases with the quantity and duration of tobacco use.

2. Alcohol: Heavy alcohol consumption can potentially increase the risk of laryngeal cancer. The risk is even higher for people who both smoke and drink alcohol.

3. Human papillomavirus (HPV): Certain types of HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, have been linked to several cancers, including laryngeal cancer.

4. Exposure to certain substances at work: Certain occupations may expose a person to substances that could increase the risk of laryngeal cancer. This may include jobs that involve exposure to coal dust, diesel exhaust, chemicals, asbestos, paint fumes, and certain other substances.

5. Age and Gender: Laryngeal cancer is more common in older adults and is more frequently found in men than in women.

6. Poor nutrition: A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables has been linked to an increased risk of laryngeal cancer.

7. Certain genetic syndromes: Certain rare genetic syndromes passed through families, such as Fanconi anemia or Dyskeratosis congenita, might increase the risk of developing cancers in the throat.

8. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Regular reflux of stomach acid into the throat can increase the risk of laryngeal cancer.

It’s important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that a person will definitely get laryngeal cancer. Some individuals may have many risk factors and not develop the disease, while others with no known risk factors will develop laryngeal cancer. Cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors beyond the risk factors noted above.

Risk Factors of Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

Laryngeal cancer, or cancer of the larynx, has several risk factors:

1. Tobacco Use: This is the most important risk factor for laryngeal cancer. This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or using smokeless tobacco. The risk increases with the amount of tobacco used in terms of duration and frequency.

2. Alcohol Consumption: Habitual excessive alcohol consumption is another important risk factor, especially when combined with tobacco use.

3. Age: The risk of laryngeal cancer increases with age; it is more common in people over the age of 40.

4. Gender: Laryngeal cancer in more common in men than in women. This might be due to the higher rates of tobacco and alcohol use in men.

5. Poor Nutrition: A diet low in vitamins A and E can increase the risk of laryngeal cancer.

6. Family History: Having a family member who had laryngeal cancer might contribute to an increased risk.

7. Exposure to harmful substances: Regular exposure to asbestos, wood dust, paint fumes, and certain chemicals used in the metalworking, petroleum, plastics, and textile industries can increase the risk of laryngeal cancer.

8. Human papillomavirus (HPV): Recent studies suggest that infection with HPV, a sexually transmitted virus, may increase the risk of certain types of laryngeal cancers, however, the connection isn’t as strong as it is with other types of cancer, such as cervical or oropharyngeal cancer.

9. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Some research suggests a link between GERD and the development of laryngeal cancer.

10. Previous Radiation Treatment: Radiation treatment to the neck or head can increase the risk of developing laryngeal cancer later.

Keep in mind that having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that an individual will definitely develop laryngeal cancer. Rather, it simply means that the risk is higher.

Signs and Symptoms of Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

Laryngeal cancer, also known as cancer of the larynx, may not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. However, as the cancer progresses, symptoms tend to become more apparent. Some of the common signs and symptoms of laryngeal cancer include:

1. A Persistent Cough: This can often be one of the first signs of laryngeal cancer. If you have a cough that lasts for more than a couple of weeks, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

2. Hoarseness or Changes in Voice: Since the larynx is involved in speech, one of the first symptoms can be changes to the voice, such as hoarseness, difficulty speaking, or even loss of voice.

3. Pain or Difficulty Swallowing: This symptom might be more noticeable while eating or drinking.

4. Ear Pain: This symptom may not seem connected to the larynx, but it can be a sign of laryngeal cancer due to the interconnected structures in the neck and throat region.

5. A Lump or Sore in the Throat or Neck: Any persistent lump, swelling, or sore in the throat or neck area that does not heal should be checked out by a doctor.

6. Unintentional Weight Loss: If you’re losing weight without trying, it can be a sign of many types of cancer, including laryngeal cancer.

7. Throat or Neck Pain: Laryngeal cancer can cause sore throat or neck pain.

8. Breathing Problems: The tumor can obstruct the airways causing breathing difficulties.

9. Bad Breath: This symptom is less common but can occur if the cancer is causing persistent sores or infections in the mouth or throat.

These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than cancer, such as laryngitis or a thyroid disorder, but it’s important to get any persistent symptoms checked out by a doctor to rule out the possibility of cancer. If laryngeal cancer is detected early, it can often be successfully treated.

Diagnosis Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

Laryngeal cancer, also known as larynx cancer, is a type of cancer that begins in the larynx (or voice box), an organ located in the throat. The larynx is essential for speech, breathing, and swallowing. There are three parts to the larynx: the glottis (where the vocal cords are located), the supraglottis (the upper part), and the subglottis (the lower part that connects to the trachea). The type of laryngeal cancer is typically determined by the area it starts in.

The most common type of laryngeal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which begins in the flat, thin cells lining the larynx. Other, less common types include adenocarcinoma and sarcoma.

Risk factors for developing laryngeal cancer include long-term tobacco use (including smoking and chewing tobacco), heavy alcohol consumption, exposure to certain substances such as asbestos, poor nutrition, and certain genetic syndromes.

Symptoms can vary depending on the exact location and stage of the cancer, but might include a persistent cough, difficulty swallowing, a sore throat or pain when swallowing, ear pain, trouble breathing, weight loss, a lump or sore that doesn’t heal, and changes in voice such as hoarseness or not speaking clearly.

The diagnosis usually involves medical history evaluation, a physical examination, and a series of tests such as laryngoscopy, biopsy, and imaging tests (such as CT scan, MRI, or PET scan).

Treatment typically depends on the size, type, location, and stage of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. In some cases, a combination of these treatments may be used.

Treatment of Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

Laryngeal or larynx cancer treatment options vary based on the stage of the cancer, the precise location within the larynx and overall health of the patient. Here are some common treatments:

1. Surgery: This is the removal of the cancerous tissues and possibly some surrounding areas. The types of surgical procedures vary depending on the cancer stage. These may include cordectomy (removal of vocal cords), laryngectomy (removal of the larynx), or neck dissection (removal of lymph nodes and tissue in the neck).

2. Radiation Therapy: This treatment uses high-energy beams such as X-rays to destroy the cancer cells. It could be external beam radiation or brachytherapy (internal radiation). This therapy is often used in early stage laryngeal cancer.

3. Chemotherapy: This treatment uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. It could be administered orally or injected via a vein. Chemotherapy can be used in conjunction with other treatments like radiation.

4. Targeted Drug Therapy: These drugs specifically target the abnormalities present in cancer cells, typically used in advanced or recurrent laryngeal cancer.

5. Immunotherapy: This therapy boosts the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. It is typically used in advanced or recurrent laryngeal cancer when other treatments have failed.

6. Rehabilitation: Post treatment, patient may need to work with specialists to regain the ability to speak and swallow. If the entire larynx was removed, this could include learning esophageal speech, using electrolarynx or getting a tracheoesophageal puncture (a valve placed between windpipe and esophagus).

It’s crucial for patients to consult with their healthcare provider to understand the best treatment plan individualized for them considering their overall health, age, and the potential side effects of treatments.

Medications commonly used for Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

Treating laryngeal (larynx) cancer often involves a multi-faceted approach that may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy depending upon the stage and location of the tumor. The cornerstone medications used to treat laryngeal cancer are mainly chemotherapy drugs, which may include:

1. Cisplatin: This is a platinum-containing chemotherapy drug that interferes with the DNA repair mechanisms in cancer cells, causing them to die.

2. Carboplatin: This is another platinum chemotherapy drug, often used in patients who cannot tolerate cisplatin.

3. 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU): This medication is used to interrupt the growth of cancer cells by inhibiting their capacity to replicate.

4. Docetaxel (Taxotere): A chemotherapy medication that works by stopping the growth of cancer cells.

5. Paclitaxel (Taxol): This medication works similarly to docetaxel, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.

6. Methotrexate: A chemotherapy drug used to interfere with cell metabolism and reproduction, thus killing cancer cells.

If laryngeal cancer has spread to other areas or returned after initial treatment, targeted therapy drugs may be used:

7. Cetuximab (Erbitux): This medication belongs to a class of drugs known as EGFR inhibitors. It works by binding to the EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) on the surface of the cancer cells and inhibiting their growth.

8. Nivolumab (Opdivo) and Pembrolizumab (Keytruda): These are immunotherapy drugs known as PD-1 inhibitors. They help the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells.

9. Larotrectinib (Vitrakvi) and Entrectinib (Rozlytrek): These are newer targeted therapies used for tumors with NTRK gene changes.

These medications can come with side effects. Always consult with the healthcare provider for appropriate treatment strategies and personalized care. Additionally, ongoing clinical trials may open up newer avenues for treatment options.

Prevention of Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

1. Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol: The frequent use of tobacco products (smoking and chewing) and alcohol consumption significantly increase the risk of laryngeal cancer. Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption can dramatically lower the chances of developing this type of cancer.

2. Healthy Eating: Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can strengthen your immune system and help to ward off cancer.

3. Regular Exercise: Regular exercise can help to maintain a healthy weight and improve overall health, reducing the risk of different types of cancers, including laryngeal cancer.

4. HPV Vaccination: Certain types of Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection can cause laryngeal cancer. All adolescents, both boys and girls, should get the HPV vaccine.

5. Asbestos Safety: If your job exposes you to asbestos, make sure you follow safety regulations to minimize your risk, as prolonged exposure to asbestos can increase the likelihood of laryngeal cancer.

6. Regular Checkups: Regular laryngeal checkups, especially if you have experienced prolonged symptoms like a sore throat or hoarseness, can lead to early detection and better chances of successful treatment.

7. Limit Exposure to Harmful Chemicals: Industries like coal mining, timber processing, or metalworking expose workers to harmful substances, which can increase the risk of laryngeal cancer. Proper safety equipment and practices can limit exposure.

8. Increase Awareness: Understand the risk factors and symptoms of laryngeal cancer. Early detection and treatment have a much better prognosis than late-stage discovery.

Remember, while these measures can significantly decrease your risk, they cannot guarantee that you won’t get laryngeal cancer. If you notice symptoms such as persistent throat pain, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, or unintended weight loss, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

FAQ’s about Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

1. What is laryngeal (larynx) cancer?
Laryngeal cancer is a type of throat cancer that originates in the larynx, or voice box – a short passageway shaped like a tube that is situated in the throat at the top of the windpipe.

2. What are the symptoms?
Some of the symptoms of laryngeal cancer may include a sore throat that does not go away, a hoarse voice, pain or difficulty when swallowing, a lump in the neck or throat, ear pain, trouble breathing, and unusual weight loss.

3. Who is at risk?
People who frequently consume alcohol, smokers, and those exposed to certain industrial substances like wood dust or certain chemicals are at a higher risk of developing laryngeal cancer.

4. How is it diagnosed?
Doctors generally perform a laryngoscopy, which involves using a thin tube with a light and lens to view the larynx directly. Other tests – such as biopsies, X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and PET scans – may also be used to confirm the diagnosis and determine the extent or stage of the cancer.

5. What treatment options are available?
Treatment options for laryngeal cancer may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, or a combination. In some cases, target therapies or immunotherapies might be used. The choice of treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, the patient’s general state of health, and their personal preferences.

6. What is the prognosis for those diagnosed with laryngeal (larynx) cancer?
The prognosis depends on many factors, including the type and stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis, the patient’s overall health, and how well the patient responds to treatment. Early-stage laryngeal cancer has a high survival rate, while advanced-stage cancer may require more extensive treatment and have a lower survival rate.

7. Are there ways to prevent laryngeal (larynx) cancer?
There may be ways to lower your risk of developing laryngeal cancer. These include ceasing any tobacco use, limiting alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals and dust, and seeking immediate medical attention if you have any symptoms of laryngeal cancer.

Remember, it’s always important to seek professional medical advice if you’re concerned about cancer or any other health issues.

Useful links

Here are some journal articles about laryngeal (larynx) cancer:


Please note that some articles may require a subscription or purchase to access the full text. If this is the case, you may be able to access them through a university library or ask your healthcare provider for copies.
Do remember to consult your healthcare provider for proper guidance and understanding.

Complications of Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

Laryngeal or larynx cancer involves malignancy formation in the tissues of the larynx (voice box). It is a subcategory of head and neck cancers. Its complications can vary, ranging from effects on speech and breathing to more severe systemic issues. Here are few potential complications:

1. Difficulty speaking or Permanent Voice Loss: The larynx is instrumental in speech. Therefore, laryngeal cancer can cause hoarseness or voice changes. Depending on the extent of the cancer and the necessary treatment, it could lead to complete loss of voice.

2. Difficulty swallowing (Dysphagia): The tumor can interfere with swallowing. Treatments such as radiotherapy and surgery can also affect the muscles used for swallowing causing problems ranging from discomfort to an inability to swallow.

Larynx Cancer

3. Difficulty breathing: If the tumor becomes too large, it may obstruct the airway, leading to breathing difficulties. In some severe cases, patients might need a tracheostomy, a surgical procedure that creates an opening in the neck for breathing.

4. Spread of Cancer (Metastasis): Laryngeal cancer can spread to nearby tissues, lymph nodes in the neck, or other parts of the body, leading to a variety of complications associated with metastasis.

5. Psychological impact: Any cancer diagnosis can lead to mental health challenges, including depression and anxiety. Change in voice or difficulty in speaking can also affect a patient’s self-image and social interactions.

6. Side effects of treatment: Treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery might have their own side effects. Fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, pain, and other side effects can be experienced during and after treatment.

7. Nutritional deficiencies: Difficulties with swallowing can make it hard to eat, potentially leading to malnutrition.

8. Recurrence: Even after successful treatment, there is a risk that laryngeal cancer can come back (recur).

To reduce the risk of such complications, early diagnosis and prompt treatment is very important. A multi-disciplinary approach involving oncologists, surgeons, dieticians, speech therapists and mental health professionals can help in managing these complications and improving the quality of life of the patients.

Home remedies of Laryngeal (larynx) cancer

It’s important to clarify that cancer, including laryngeal cancer, is a serious medical condition that requires professional medical treatment. Home remedies cannot cure or effectively treat laryngeal or any other type of cancer. However, there are lifestyle changes and natural remedies that can support your overall health and may help alleviate some of the side effects of laryngeal cancer treatments. These should be used alongside, not in place of, conventional treatments. Always consult with your healthcare team before starting any home or natural therapies.

1. Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can worsen symptoms like a dry mouth or throat. Sip on water throughout the day. You could also try a warm tea with honey to soothe your throat.

2. Balanced Diet: Nutritious meals can help to keep your body strong and support your immune system. Include lots of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

3. Mind-Body Therapies: Techniques like meditation, yoga, or massage can help manage stress and promote overall wellbeing.

4. Exercise: Regular physical activity can help maintain strength, improve mood and reduce fatigue.

5. Clothing: Wear loose, comfortable clothing, especially around the neck.

6. Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol: Both have been linked to laryngeal cancer and can interfere with treatment.

7. Rest: Adequate sleep is essential for healing and recovery.

Remember, these suggestions should not replace but complement your doctor’s treatment plan. It’s very important to communicate with your healthcare provider about any supplements or changes to your dietary or lifestyle routine. They can provide guidance on what is safe and effective for your specific situation. The best way to fight laryngeal cancer is through scientifically supported medical treatments suggested by your healthcare provider, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy where necessary.

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Last Update: January 8, 2024