Cancer is caused by cells which develop abnormalities and start to grow out-of-control. Cancer cells can also invade other tissues and will form tumors in most cases. Cancer cells often travel to other parts of the body - by getting into the bloodstream or lymph vessels - where they can form new tumors called metastases.
Laryngeal cancer (also called cancer of the larynx) is a type of head and neck cancer which develops in the larynx - that is, the voice box. Most laryngeal cancers originate in the glottis (the area containing the vocal cords) but can also originate in the supraglottis (the area above) or the subglottis (the area below). Laryngeal cancer may spread by direct extension to adjacent structures; distant metastases to the lung are most common.
Tobacco and alcohol are the two biggest risks factors for laryngeal cancers, with a further increased risk when smoking and drinking are combined. The condition is rare in people under 40, with most cases affecting people over 60, and laryngeal cancer is about four times more common in men that women.
Management of laryngeal cancers is a coordinated multidisciplinary approach typically involving ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeons (otolaryngologists), medical oncologists, and radiation oncologists. The treatment for laryngeal cancer consists in removing the cancerous cells from the larynx and largely depends on how far the cancer has spread. The medical armamentarium against laryngeal cancers includes:
These treatments may be used alone or in combination. A severely affected patient may require a laryngectomy (removal of the larynx), partial or complete.
As for any other cancer, the outlook is better when laryngeal cancer is diagnosed at an early stage. Overall, about 65% of people will live for at least 5 years after diagnosis and about 57% of people will live for at least 10 years after diagnosis.
However, regardless of the survival rate, the therapies used to treat laryngeal cancer may be associated with side effects affecting the way the patient breathes, eats, or speaks: