Learn About Laryngeal Cancer

What is the definition of Laryngeal Cancer?
Laryngeal cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that affects the larynx. The larynx is an organ located in the throat and contains the vocal cords. Laryngeal cancer forms in the tissues of the larynx, most commonly in squamous cells, and may spread to the thyroid, trachea (windpipe), esophagus or lymph nodes. Laryngeal cancer is more common men than in women and most often diagnosed in people over 60 years of age.
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What are the alternative names for Laryngeal Cancer?
What are the causes of Laryngeal Cancer?
There are several high risk factors that increase the chances of developing laryngeal cancer. Excessive smoking and heavy alcohol use are believed to be the leading causes of laryngeal cancer. Unhealthy diets that include excessive amounts of red meat, processed or fried foods are believed to be risk factors. Exposure to toxic chemicals or substances such as asbestos, coal or wood dust, paint fumes, diesel fumes, sulphuric acid, isopropyl alcohol or formaldehyde are known risk factors. Family history of head and neck cancers can increase the likelihood of developing laryngeal cancer. Additionally, exposure to the Human Papilloma Virus can lead to cancers of the throat.
What are the symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer?
The most common symptoms of laryngeal cancer are a lingering sore throat, excessive coughing or a cough that won't go away, ear pain, difficulty breathing, difficulty or painful swallowing, or a lump in the throat or neck area. Also, hoarseness or raspiness in the voice can be symptoms of laryngeal cancer.
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What are the current treatments for Laryngeal Cancer?
There are several treatments for laryngeal cancer, depending on the size of the cancer. The main treatment options are radiation therapy, surgery and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and keep them from growing. It is often used to treat early-stage laryngeal cancer or it can be used after surgery to stop cancerous cells returning. Surgical removal cancer cells is a common treatment for all stages of laryngeal cancer. There are several types of surgery options available depending of the severity of the cancer. Endoscopic resection is used in early-stage laryngeal cancer and uses lasers or small instruments to target specific areas of the larynx. A partial laryngectomy is another surgical procedure that involves surgically removing the affected part of the larynx. Some vocal cords are left in place and patients should still be able to talk, although the voice will be weaker. A total laryngectomy is performed on patients with advanced laryngeal cancer. The procedure involves removing the entire larynx, and sometimes lymph nodes. Since the entire larynx is removed in this procedure patients lose the ability to speak without mechanical assistance. Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used in combination with surgery or radiation therapy to shrink tumors before treatment or to make the radiation more effective.
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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Laryngeal Cancer?
The outlook for laryngeal cancer depends on when the cancer is detected and the severity of the tumors. Most laryngeal cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, so the prognosis is generally better than with other types of cancer. Survival is about 70% after five years from diagnosis and 60% after ten years.
What are the possible complications of Laryngeal Cancer?
The most severe complication resulting from laryngeal cancer is the partial or total lose of voice if aggressive surgery is needed to remove tumors. If the condition is not treated quickly it can spread to other parts of the body.
When should I contact a medical professional for Laryngeal Cancer?
If the primary symptoms last for longer than three weeks it would be a good idea to get examined by a medical professional.
How do I prevent Laryngeal Cancer?
The easiest ways to prevent laryngeal cancer are to develop healthy lifestyle habits. Avoid tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, snuff and chewing tobacco. Cut back on excessive alcohol consumption and eat a healthy diet that consists of lots of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins like fish. Don't eat a lot of red meat or fried foods.
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