Laryngeal cancer (otherwise known as cancer of the larynx) is a form of cancer affecting the larynx (voice box). This form of cancer develops when cancerous cells develop in the tissues of the larynx, and is one of the most common forms of head and throat cancer, with thousands of people diagnosed with laryngeal cancer each year.

Men are much more likely to be diagnosed with laryngeal cancer than women and it mostly affects those over the age of 60, but everyone needs to get checked out if they have any of the symptoms of laryngeal cancer, as it can affect anyone of any age.

Symptoms of laryngeal cancer

As with most diseases, the symptoms of laryngeal cancer will differ slightly depending on the person, but the main symptoms are a change in your voice/sounding hoarse, a sore throat or a cough that persists over time, difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing, breathlessness and difficulty breathing, or a high pitched wheezing noise occurring when breathing.

Other lesser-known symptoms include earache, bad breath, unintentional weight loss, extreme tiredness and a lump/swelling in your neck. If you have any of these symptoms and they can’t be explained by any other medical issues, it’s important to get checked out straight away, as the sooner that laryngeal cancer is diagnosed and treated, the more likely the patient is to survive cancer. Some of these symptoms can be caused by other things such as laryngitis, but if you experience symptoms for more than three weeks, then you should seek out the advice of a medical professional.

Causes and risk factors for laryngeal cancer

Like most cancers, laryngeal cancer can develop on its own, however, several risk factors can increase your chances of getting it. Smoking is a huge risk factor for cancer, with other potential causes including excessive drinking, having an unhealthy diet with little fruit or vegetables consumed, exposure to secondhand smoke or working in an environment where you are exposed to harmful chemicals and substances, such as asbestos or coal dust. There are also some genetic factors involved, as those who have had family members with the disease are more likely to catch it, and it’s also more common in black people and white people than those of other races.

How is laryngeal cancer diagnosed?

Usually, your doctor will carry out a thorough physical exam, checking your throat, mouth and neck for abnormalities, such as swollen lymph nodes. They may also carry out a biopsy (where tissue samples are removed to look at under a microscope), and a procedure called a laryngoscopy may also be carried out, where a thin tube is inserted into a nostril. Other diagnostic equipment that may be used includes CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, X-rays or bone scans.

How is laryngeal cancer treated?

The type of treatment used will differ depending on the stage your cancer is at when diagnosed – chemotherapy and radiotherapy are commonly used, however, surgery may also be required, to try and remove cancer from your body. Sometimes the larynx has to be removed entirely, but this is usually done once other options have been exhausted. Most forms of laryngeal cancer are diagnosed early and the disease is curable if found in time, so if you have any symptoms of the disease, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a medical professional.