The larynx is also called the voice box. It is located at the top of the windpipe and is about 2 inches long. The walls of the larynx are made of cartilage and it is the large front part that forms the so-called Adam's apple. Inside the larynx are two muscles that make up our vocal cords. that 12,000 people a year are diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. Cancer can start anywhere in the larynx. The terms are:
* glottis, if it starts in the vocal cords
* supraglottis, if it starts above the cords
* subglottis, if it starts below the cords
that most cancers of the larynx start on the vocal cords. that 95 percent of the cancers start from squamous cells that line the larynx.
Many laryngeal cancers don't cause pain early in their development but often cause a hoarseness in the voice or other voice changes. If hoarseness lasts for a couple of weeks, it's a sure sign you should see a doctor:
* cough that doesn't go away
* a long lasting sore throat
* lumps in the neck
* breathing problems or noisy breathing
* difficulty swallowing, even choking
* bad breath
* weight loss
Subglottic cancers are more subtle. they are often discovered later because they do not tend to cause hoarseness. Any of these symptoms should be checked by an Otolaryngologist (which is the formal name of an ear, nose and throat doctor). The doctor can use a physical exam to check for lumps and tenderness. They can also look inside the larynx using either a long handled mirror or a tube with lights to look directly into the throat. If cancer is suspected, a biopsy can be taken to confirm the diagnoses. A patient may also need to undergo other tests to check if the cancer has spread.
Once cancer of the larynx is found, more tests will be done to find out if cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body. This is called staging. A doctor needs to know the stage of the disease to plan treatment. In cancer of the larynx, the definitions of the early stages depend on where the cancer started. The following stages are used for cancer of the larynx:
* Stage I - The cancer is only in the area where it started and has not spread to lymph nodes in the area or to other parts of the body. Lymph nodes are small bean-shaped structures that are found throughout the body; they produce and store infection-fighting cells. The exact definition of stage I depends on where the cancer started, as follows:
o supraglottis - The cancer is only in one area of the supraglottis and the vocal cords can move normally.
o glottis - The cancer is only in the vocal cords and the vocal cords can move normally.
o subglottis - The cancer has not spread outside of the subglottis.
* Stage II - The cancer is only in the larynx and has not spread to lymph nodes in the area or to other parts of the body. The exact definition of stage II depends on where the cancer started, as follows:
o supraglottis - The cancer is in more than one area of the supraglottis, but the vocal cords can move normally.
o glottis - The cancer has spread to the supraglottis or the subglottis or both. The vocal cords may or may not be able to move normally.
o subglottis - The cancer has spread to the vocal cords, which may or may not be able to move normally.
* Stage III - Either of the following may be true:
o The cancer has not spread outside of the larynx, but the vocal cords cannot move normally, or the cancer has spread to tissues next to the larynx.
o The cancer has spread to one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer, and the lymph node measures no more than 3 centimeters (just over 1 inch).
* Stage IV - Any of the following may be true:
o The cancer has spread to tissues around the larynx, such as the pharynx or the tissues in the neck. The lymph nodes in the area may or may not contain cancer.
o The cancer has spread to more than one lymph node on the same side of the neck as the cancer, to lymph nodes on one or both sides of the neck, or to any lymph node that measures more than 6 centimeters (over 2 inches).
o The cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Treatments for cancer of the larynx include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and biological therapy. Each has its own successes and side effects. that cancer of the larynx is usually treated with radiation or surgery, depending on how far the cancer has advanced. Surgery can be one of two types - partial or total laryngectomy. A total removal of the voice box leaves the patient with a stoma or opening in the neck to breathe by and they must learn to talk in a new manner. A partial laryngectomy leaves the voice but may change it. The patient is able to breath in the normal manner. Radiation therapy impacts the salvia. Because of that, special oral hygiene care is required.
There are a number of things that have been identified as risk factors for cancer of the larynx. Perhaps the greatest is smoking. that the risk is five to 35 times greater for smokers. Heavy alcohol use increases the risk two to five times some reports put the risk at 100 times higher for people who smoke and drink. Other risk factors cited:
* age - most cancers are found in those over 55
* gender - four times more likely in men than women
* race - 50 percent more common in African Americans
* weakened immune systems brought on by things such as organ transplants or AIDS
* poor eating habits
* gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
Certain environmental factors also place a person at risk. Breathing things like paint fumes, wood dust and certain chemicals are suspected of increasing risk. people who work with asbestos need to be especially careful.