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Laryngeal Cancer

What is Laryngeal Cancer?

Laryngeal cancer is defined by doctors as cancer of the larynx (voice box). The larynx is the part of your throat that contains your vocal cords and connects to your trachea, or windpipe. The larynx has three parts:

  • Supraglottis: The top part of the larynx, above the vocal cords
  • Glottis: The vocal cords
  • Subglottis: The bottom part of the larynx, below the vocal cords

The two main risk factors for developing this type of cancer are:

  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Smoking or using smokeless tobacco

Not everyone who drinks alcohol heavily or smokes will develop laryngeal cancer. It is possible for someone to develop this type of cancer without having either of these risk factors.

Laryngeal cancer can spread to other areas of the head and neck or to other areas of the body.

Symptoms of laryngeal cancer include the following:

  • Sore throat, pain, or difficulty when swallowing.
  • Ear pain.
  • Lumps or bumps you can see or feel on your neck.
  • Cough.
  • Voice changes, or hoarseness.
  • Trouble breathing.

It is important to remember that most of these symptoms can be associated with other minor illnesses, and they can be easily dismissed. If any of these symptoms last more than two weeks or cause you concern, make an appointment with your doctor.

It is important to be evaluated for this type of cancer as soon as possible. Be prepared to discuss your medical history, your current health, and any risk factors for this cancer that you may have. Your doctor will examine your neck, feeling for anything unusual, and the inside of your mouth and throat.

You may also need some of the following tests:

Your test results will determine what treatment or treatments our team will recommend. Your doctor will explain your treatment options, along with the risks and benefits of each. Our goal is to work with you to design a treatment plan based on your health, your expectations for treatment, the location of the cancer, and its stage.

Your treatment may consist of one or more of the following options:

Chemotherapy: During chemotherapy, medications are administered orally or through an IV. Chemotherapy can make you feel sick and can sometimes affect other organs like the liver, so your team will monitor your health closely during chemotherapy to watch for side effects. Chemotherapy is often combined with radiation to make the radiation more effective.

Learn more about chemotherapy.

Radiation: Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or concentrated radioactive material to kill cancer cells. UPMC offers several types of radiation therapy, all of which have been developed to target the cancer and affect healthy tissue as little as possible. Radiation has some side effects, which may include dry mouth, skin problems, and fatigue.

Learn more about radiation therapy.

Surgery: UPMC offers innovative, cutting-edge surgical techniques to treat laryngeal cancer. The goal of surgical treatment is to remove as much cancer as possible while leaving healthy tissue alone. Minimally invasive surgery such as robotic surgery has several benefits, which include better surgical precision and shorter hospital stays. Learn more about surgical options at UPMC.

Learn more about surgical options at UPMC.

The treatment team may also talk with you about potential clinical trials including with immunotherapy.

UPMC has provided high-quality services to Pittsburgh, the surrounding areas, and to people around the world for more than 30 years.

Our team of experts who focus on head and neck cancer every day includes:

  • Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialists
  • Surgeons
  • Medical and radiation oncologists
  • Audiologists
  • Speech pathologists

We are a trusted national and international leader in head and neck cancer care, providing proven and cutting-edge services to each person we see, and conducting research to constantly improve the care we deliver.

Contact Us

To make an appointment for head and neck cancer care at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, call 412-647-2811.