Larynx cancer, also called laryngeal cancer, occurs when malignant cells form in the tissues of the larynx. Many cancers of the larynx, which is part of the respiratory tract, begin in the vocal cords.
The symptoms of cancer of the larynx depend mainly on the size and location of the tumor.
A cough that doesn't go away or the feeling of a lump in the throat may also be warning signs of cancer of the larynx. As the tumor grows, it may cause pain, weight loss, bad breath, and choking on food. In some cases, a tumor in the larynx can make it hard to swallow.
In addition to checking general signs of health, your doctor will carefully feel your neck to check for lumps, swelling, tenderness or other changes. Your doctor also can look at the larynx in two ways:
Cancer of the larynx is usually treated with surgery or radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy. Some patients may receive chemotherapy at the time of radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing. The rays are aimed at the tumor and the surrounding area. Doctors may suggest this type of treatment for some cancers because it can destroy the tumor and you may not lose your voice.
Radiation therapy may be combined with surgery to destroy microscopic cancer cells that may remain in the area after surgery. Radiation therapy also may be used for tumors that cannot be removed with surgery.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.