Overview | Understanding the Disorder | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment

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Image of Advanced Laryngeal Cancer

Image "A"Key Glossary Terms

Laryngeal/Voice Box
Composed of vocal folds, muscles, and framework cartilages; key for voice, breathing, airway protection

Early Cancer
T1 = affects only one site on larynx, no spread, normal vocal fold motion; T2 = involves more than one site on larynx, vocal fold function abnormal but still moving

Advanced Cancer
T3 = complete non-movement of one vocal fold; T4=invades thyroid cartilage or structures outside of the voice box

TNM Staging
T, tumor type; N, lymph nodes involved; M, spread to other body parts or metastasis

Vocal Folds (also called Vocal Cords)
A pair of specialized tissues in the voice box that vibrates for sound production; comprised of ordered layers of epithelium, superficial lamina propria, vocal ligament, and thyroarytenoid muscle


Symptoms of Advanced Laryngeal Cancer
Image Red Flag Red Flag

Early Detection Is Critical for Tumor Control

The symptoms listed below indicate a need for prompt and thorough evaluation by a physician. 

Most Common Symptoms


  • Swallowing or breathing difficulty
  • Ear pain
  • Unintended weight loss of greater than 10 pounds over six months in a smoker

Other Symptoms

  • Pain or difficulty swallowing
  • Noisy breathing
  • Voice changes (hoarseness) that persist for more than one month

In addition, a non-tender mass in the neck that persists for more than one or two months, particularly in someone over 40 years of age with a history of smoking, should be promptly evaluated.

Consideration of Tumor Control and Larynx Preservation
Since the larynx is involved in airway passage for breathing, voice production for speaking and singing, and protection of the airway during swallowing, preservation of the larynx is now incorporated into treatment plans for advanced cancers. Advancements in cancer detection, treatment, and rehabilitation make this increasingly feasible.

Judicious Use of Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy usually can only be delivered once to the same area of the head and neck (such as the larynx). Judicious use of this treatment is required, especially because of the high rate of second primary tumors (five percent per year) in head and neck cancer patients.

Key Role of Multidisciplinary Care and Advanced Cancer Patients
Evaluation and treatment at a center with a multidisciplinary approach to cancer therapy (including surgeons, radiation therapists, medical oncologists, speech/swallowing pathologists, and nutritionists) is crucial in maximizing the success of treatment.
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Any and all airway problems require immediate attention.

Image of Exclamation markAdvisory Note

Patient education material presented here does not substitute for medical consultation or examination, nor is this material intended to provide advice on the medical treatment appropriate to any specific circumstances.

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