Voice Box (Laryngeal) Cancer

A graphic showing symptoms of laryngeal cancer

Cancer of the voice box, or laryngeal cancer, is not as well known by the general public as some other types of cancer, yet it is not a rare disease.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be about 13,150 new cases of laryngeal cancer (10,490 new cases in men and 2,660 new cases in women), and about 3,710 deaths from laryngeal cancer (2,970 men and 740 women).1 Even for survivors, the consequences of laryngeal cancer can be devastating with respect to voice, breathing, or swallowing. It is a preventable disease, however, since the primary risk factors for laryngeal cancer are associated with changeable behaviors in lifestyle.

What Are the Symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer?

Signs and symptoms of laryngeal cancer include:

  • Worsening or persistent hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Persistent sore throat or pain with swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain in the ear
  • Lump in the neck
  • Coughing up blood

Anyone with these signs or symptoms should be evaluated by an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, or otolaryngologist. This is particularly important for people with risk factors for laryngeal cancer.

What Are the Treatment Options?

The best “treatment” is prevention: laryngeal cancer is a preventable disease in most cases, because the main risk factors are associated with lifestyle behaviors that can be modified or changed. The American Cancer Society recommends that those who drink alcoholic beverages should limit the amount of alcohol they consume—one drink per day is considered limited exposure to alcohol. It also recommends avoiding tobacco in any form. Vitamin A and beta-carotene may play a protective role in helping to decrease the risk of developing laryngeal cancer.

That said, the primary treatment options for laryngeal cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of these treatments, the first two being the most commonly recommended treatments. However, these treatments take a toll on the body.

Potential Complications of Non-treatment

You and your doctor can discuss the best treatment option(s), but potential complications of not treating your condition include:

  • Persistent sore throat
  • Complete loss of voice
  • Disfigurement in the neck area
  • Bloody cough or bleeding from the mouth
  • Complete inability to swallow or aspiration of food and liquid into lungs leading to pneumonia
  • Difficulty breathing or even complete airway blockage, possibly requiring a tracheostomy (a special tube through the neck into the trachea or windpipe to bypass the blocked airway)

Call Rocky Top ENT & Allergy at 931-219-9990 or 865-383-0737 for more information and to schedule an appointment.