Larynx Cancer (Throat Cancer)
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
- Throat cancer (larynx cancer) facts*
- What is throat (larynx) cancer?
- What causes throat cancer?
- What are the risk factors for throat cancer?
- What are the types of larynx (throat) cancer?
- What are the symptoms and signs of throat cancer?
- How do health care professionals diagnose throat cancer?
- How do health care professionals determine throat cancer staging?
- What kinds of specialists treat throat cancer?
- What is the treatment for throat cancer?
- Are there home remedies for throat (larynx) cancer?
- What kind of support is available for those with throat cancer?
- What is the prognosis for patients with throat cancer?
- Is it possible to prevent throat cancer?
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
Throat cancer (larynx cancer) facts*
*Throat cancer (larynx cancer) facts medically edited by: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
- The larynx is the voice box located at the top of the windpipe (trachea).
- Cancer of the larynx occurs most often in people over the age of 55 years.
- People who stop smoking can greatly reduce their risk of cancer of the larynx.
- Painless hoarseness can be a symptom of cancer of the larynx.
- The larynx can be examined easily with a viewing tube called a laryngoscope.
- Treatment of cancer of the larynx depends on the location and size of the tumor as well as the age and health of the patient.
- Cancer of the larynx usually is treated with radiation therapy or surgery. Chemotherapy can also be used for cancers that have spread beyond the larynx.
What is throat (larynx) cancer?
Throat cancer (laryngeal cancer) is a general term that usually refers to cancer of the pharynx and/or larynx (voice box). Regions included when considering throat cancer include the pharynx (nasopharynx, oropharynx, hypopharynx [cancers that occur in the tissues of the throat adjacent to the larynx], glottis, supraglottis, and subglottis); about half of throat cancers develop in the larynx (the part of the throat with the vocal cords), and the other half in the pharynx. Consequently, any cancers (growth and/or spread of abnormal cells that form tumors or metastasize to other parts of the body) that develop in these regions of the throat are considered throat cancers. For this article, the terms throat cancer and larynx cancer will be interchangeable. The term laryngeal cancer also is used to refer to larynx cancer. Nasopharyngeal cancer and oropharyngeal cancer or will not be discussed in this article.
Some investigators consider throat cancers a subset of esophageal cancers. For this article, only throat cancers will be discussed. Esophageal cancers have the potential to cause throat symptoms such as burning or pain (pressure) in the throat as well as the chest since they can extend throughout the esophagus from just below the pharynx to the junction of the esophagus and stomach. Moreover, esophageal cancers may include all of the throat cancer signs, symptoms, and most diagnostic and treatment protocols discussed in this article -- particularly when they are located high in the esophagus.
The American Cancer Society statistics suggest that about 13,360 new cases of laryngeal cancer will occur in 2017 (10,570 in men and 2,790 in women), with about 3,660 deaths. Five-year survival rates vary somewhat with the location of the cancer and its stage (see below). Most types have a five-year survival rate in stage I and/or II that range from about 53%-64% except for those that occur in the glottis (the part of the larynx including the vocal cords), which is about 74%-90%. Stages III-IV five-year survival varies from about 6%-24%, with stage IV having the lowest five-year survival rate.
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