Laryngeal Cancer

(Cancer of the Larynx; Cancer of the Voicebox)

Definition

Laryngeal cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the larynx. The larynx is a tube-shaped organ inside the neck that lies between the throat and the windpipe. Its main function is to produce sound for speaking.
The Larynx
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Causes

Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues. Cancer that has invaded nearby tissues can then spread to other parts of the body.It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but it is probably a combination of genetics and environment.

Risk Factors

Laryngeal cancer is more common in men, and in people over 55 years old. It is also more common in African Americans. Other factors that increase your chance of getting laryngeal cancer include:
  • Smoking—the most common high-risk behavior
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Occupational exposure to certain air pollutants such as wood dust, chemicals, and asbestos
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)—chronic condition marked by stomach acid that backs up into the esophagus and throat where it may come in contact with the larynx
  • Weakened immune system
  • Laryngeal dysplasia—a precancerous condition

Symptoms

Laryngeal cancer may cause:
  • Persistent cough, hoarseness, or sore throat
  • Abnormal lump in the throat or neck
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Frequent choking on food
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Noisy breathing
  • Persistent ear pain or an unusual ear fullness or sensation in and around the skin of the ear
  • Unplanned, significant weight loss
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Coughing blood

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