In this section: Laryngeal Cancer

laryNgeal Cancer 
SYMPTOMS, SIGNS & TESTS

ALSO KNOWN AS VOICE BOX CANCER


What do we mean by 'Laryngeal Cancer'? It is a type of Throat Cancer that is also known as voice box cancer. If it's not the cancer type you're looking for, please explore the information about other types of Throat Cancers or other types of Head and Neck Cancers.


 
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1. Symptoms and signs of Laryngeal Cancer

The signs and symptoms of Laryngeal Cancer depend on where the cancer is, its size and how far it has spread in the body. 

The most common early symptom associated with Laryngeal Cancer is hoarseness or change in voice. 

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • pain on swallowing

  • difficulty swallowing

  • sore throat or pain in the ears

  • a lump in the neck (swollen lymph nodes or glands) 

  • noisy or difficulty breathing

Some people with Laryngeal Cancer may not experience any symptoms at all. However if you have any of these symptoms for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor as early as possible. They may be able to help diagnose and treat you.

Watch a 3D video explainer about Laryngeal Cancer:

 


2. What are the tests for Laryngeal Cancer?

It is important that your doctor establishes the diagnosis of Laryngeal Cancer, assess the size of the cancer and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck or elsewhere in the body.  To answer these questions your doctor will need to do the following things:

  • talk with you about your medical history. This includes signs you may have noticed, any health conditions, medications that you are taking, and whether you smoke or drink alcohol 

  • order diagnostic tests, which may include scans.

Not everyone will need to have to every test for Laryngeal Cancer . Your doctor will recommend tests that are right for you. 

Common tests include: 

NASONENDOSCOPY (FLEXIBLE FIBEROPTIC)

Your doctor will use a very thin flexible tube with a tiny light and camera on it to look inside your larynx. This is an essential part of the full head and neck examination and is performed in the office or clinic using local anaesthesia. 

BIOPSY

This involves taking a small piece (sample) from the cancer. The sample is then examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells. This is often the only sure way to tell if you have cancer.

Your doctor may recommend:

  • Biopsy of the larynx: This is commonly referred to as microlaryngoscopy and will need to be performed under a general anaesthetic (medicine to keep you unconscious), so that you don't feel any pain. During this procedure which is performed through the open mouth, your doctor will be able to accurately map the cancer and take a small sample for assessment. There may be some bleeding after the biopsy. If you take blood thinners you may need to stop these before the biopsy. 

  • Needle biopsy (Fine Needle Aspiration or FNA): This is used when there is a lump (enlarged lymph node) in the neck that could have cancer cells in it. During the procedure, your doctor will take some cells from the lump using a needle. Usually this is done with guidance from an ultrasound to make sure the needle is in the right spot. You may feel a bit uncomfortable during the biopsy.

CT (COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY) SCAN

This uses X-rays to take pictures of the inside of the body. If the person has cancer, a CT scan can help the doctor to see where it is, measure how big it is, and if it has spread into nearby organs or other parts of the body.

MRI (MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING) SCAN

This uses magnetic fields to take pictures of the inside of the body. This helps the doctor see how far a cancer has grown into the tissue around it. 

PET (POSITRON EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY) SCAN

This is a whole body scan that uses a adioactive form of sugar which can show if Laryngeal Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body.

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