Laryngeal cancer: causes, symptoms, treatment

Head and neck cancer is a collective name for various types of cancer, including laryngeal cancer. It is very important that a tumor is discovered in time. People need to know what the complaints/symptoms are in the initial phase. How is it diagnosed, how can laryngeal cancer be treated and what is the prognosis? Another name for laryngeal cancer is laryngeal carcinoma.

Article content

  • Larynx
  • Hoarseness
  • Laryngeal cancer or laryngeal cancer
  • Causes of laryngeal cancer
  • Symptoms of laryngeal cancer
  • Complications of laryngeal cancer
  • Diagnosis of laryngeal cancer
  • Throat mirroring
  • Treatment of laryngeal cancer
  • Prognosis for laryngeal cancer


The larynx is also called the larynx . It is a hollow structure at the front of the neck , the beginning of the trachea. The larynx consists of nine pieces of cartilage and those pieces are connected by membranes and ligaments. The thyroid cartilage, which is the largest piece of cartilage, protrudes from the front of the neck, especially in men, and forms the Adam’s apple . The larynx has several tasks. One of the components of cartilage, the epiglottis, prevents nutrition from entering the airways . The larynx also ensures the formation of the voice (via two vocal cords). The most important disorders of the larynx: laryngeal inflammation (a special form of it: pseudocroup), disorders of the vocal cords and sometimes laryngeal cancer occurs. Almost all disorders of the larynx are associated with hoarseness.


Hoarseness is an abnormality in the formation of the voice because the normal movements of the vocal cords are hindered. Often the cause is inflammation of the larynx. Hoarseness can also occur if the voice is used incorrectly or due to overload. Speech lessons may be useful. A disease of the muscles and/or nerves can also lead to hoarseness, such as myasthenia gravis. Other possible causes: after thyroid surgery, laryngeal cancer or another malignant tumor in the neck.

Laryngeal cancer or laryngeal cancer

Laryngeal cancer is a malignant growth of the larynx, usually in or above the vocal cords. It is most common in people between the ages of fifty and seventy. Laryngeal cancer is much more common in men than in women. Smoking and alcohol are factors that increase the risk, heredity is not an important factor. In the Netherlands, approximately eight hundred people are diagnosed with laryngeal cancer every year.

Causes of laryngeal cancer

  • It is not known what causes laryngeal cancer.
  • It is clear that smoking increases the risk of laryngeal cancer, especially smoking in combination with consuming alcohol.
  • Diet such as eating a lot of salty fish and poor oral hygiene could also play a role.

Symptoms of laryngeal cancer

It is so important that the alarm is raised early, but then you must know what the symptoms are. The first symptom of a tumor on the vocal cord is hoarseness . If the tumor is not identified, it can spread above or below the vocal cords. This leads to symptoms such as noisy breathing, difficult breathing, difficulty swallowing and pain when swallowing. Pain may arise at a later stage that radiates to the ears.

Complications of laryngeal cancer

If treatment is started late, the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes of the neck and other parts of the body . This is unfavorable for life chances. If it spreads to the lymph nodes in the neck, they can become swollen. A lump in the neck is sometimes the first symptom of a malignant tumor. So there is already metastasis.

Diagnosis of laryngeal cancer

If there is a suspicion of laryngeal cancer, the doctor will examine the throat (throat examination). Clarity can be obtained by removing a piece of tissue under anesthesia. If spread is suspected, if the lymph nodes in the neck are larger than normal, a tissue sample can be taken from a gland with a syringe to see how far the cancer has spread. A CT scan or MRI scan can also provide more clarity about this.

Throat mirroring

Throat mirroring is easy, takes little time and does not hurt. It is an examination to detect conditions of the larynx such as lumps on the vocal cord and cancer of the larynx. Sometimes local anesthesia is used. Light is shone on a mirror and it is placed at the back of the throat. Be careful when eating and drinking after any anesthesia, which must wear off before you consume anything to prevent choking. If a tissue sample needs to be taken, anesthesia is required.

Treatment of laryngeal cancer

  • It depends, among other things, on the size of the tumor which treatment method is chosen. Radiotherapy is often chosen , which spares the organ.
  • If this is not enough, for example because the tumor is too large, surgery is performed for radiotherapy.
  • If it is necessary to remove the entire larynx, the trachea is attached to the neck and breathing begins through a round hole, also called a tracheostomy . Normal speech is no longer possible, but there are various options for speaking without a larynx . You can learn to talk through the esophagus, or with a device that produces sound. A so-called speech button can also be placed. This is also called a tracheoesophageal speech prosthesis . Radiotherapy may require a temporary stoma, which will then be closed again after treatment.

Prognosis for laryngeal cancer

In the Netherlands, approximately seven hundred people are diagnosed with laryngeal cancer, also known as laryngeal cancer, every year. In about fifty percent of cases, the cancer is located in the vocal cords. If the tumor originates there and is discovered at an early stage, the treatment has a good result in more than ninety percent of the cases. If the cancer arises somewhere else, the outlook is often less positive. The symptoms usually start later and the cancer may have already spread. It is therefore very important that if you think you recognize the symptoms, you take immediate action by going to the doctor . The forecast is now as described above, but developments are moving quickly.

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  • Myasthenia gravis: cause, symptoms, treatment, prognosis