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Larynx cancer is a disease that affects the voice box, or larynx. It is located at the front of the neck and contains three sections, the supraglottis, glottis, and subglottis. This organ aids in talking, swallowing, and breathing. Tumors of the neck are often associated with cancer of the larynx.
There is no known cause for cancer of the larynx. Doctors have, however, determined risk factors associated with contracting this form of cancer. These include age, gender, and race. People who smoke and drink alcohol may also have a higher risk of larynx cancer.
Larynx cancer symptoms often include difficulty breathing, bad breath, and sore throat. Changes in voice are also sometimes associated with caner of the larynx. Several of these are also common to other medical conditions, therefore a doctor must determine whether the symptoms are due to larynx cancer or another illness.
Diagnosis of laryngeal cancer can take several steps. A physical exam is often the first step in diagnosis. If the doctor feels cancer could be causing the symptoms, a direct or indirect laryngoscopy may be ordered. The laryngoscopy is used to view the larynx more closely with either a small mirror or a camera inserted into the esophagus. Computed tomography (CT) scans may also be used to take pictures of the neck where a tumor of the larynx may be growing.
If medical testing leads to a preliminary diagnosis of larynx cancer, the doctor may order a biopsy. A biopsy is the surgical removal of a small piece of tissue possibly affected by cancer. A lab will test this tissue for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, the doctor will issue the final diagnosis of larynx cancer.
Cancer staging is required before a doctor can write a treatment plan. Staging refers to the use of diagnostic tools to determine how far the cancer has spread in the body. The stages of cancer range from zero (0) to four (IV). These stages are progressive with stage 0 referring to the smallest number of cancer cells, and stage IV being the most aggressive and widespread cancer.
Laryngeal cancer treatment may include radiation therapy, surgery, or chemotherapy. Depending on the stage and size of the cancer, the doctor may order one or more forms of treatment. For instance, surgery to remove a tumor of the larynx or the entire larynx may be followed with radiation therapy or chemotherapy to kill any remaining cancer cells.