It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the head and neck. Get to know its symptoms

It is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the head and neck.  Get to know its symptoms

Laryngeal cancer is one of the cancers that develop in the head and neck. It is a malignant tumor that can develop in the upper, middle and lower parts of the larynx. Squamous cell carcinoma usually develops in the larynx, accounting for over 90% of all laryngeal cancers. Learn about the causes and symptoms of laryngeal cancer. We also explain how laryngeal cancer is treated.

  • Basic information about laryngeal cancer
  • Causes of laryngeal cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer – symptoms
  • Types of laryngeal cancer
  • Diagnosis of laryngeal cancer
  • Treatment of larynx cancer
  • Prevention of laryngeal cancer

Laryngeal cancer is more common in men. The risk of developing laryngeal cancer increases with heavy smoking. In smokers, the risk of developing laryngeal cancer increases 30 times. Alcohol abuse is also an important risk factor for the development of laryngeal cancer. Smoking cigarettes and frequent alcohol consumption at the same time increases the risk of laryngeal cancer by as much as 330 times! Laryngeal cancer develops very rarely in people who do not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. It is worth learning more about this cancer because it is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, which affects patients’ prognosis.

Basic information about laryngeal cancer

Cancer can develop in various organs and systems. The larynx is the part of the respiratory system that connects the throat to the trachea. Due to its location in the larynx, one of the following cancers may be diagnosed:

  • epiglottis cancer,

  • subglottic cancer,

  • Glottic cancer.

Most often, laryngeal cancer develops on or above the vocal cords. Cancerous lesions of the larynx below the vocal cords are rarely diagnosed.

Depending on the location of laryngeal cancer, we experience slightly different symptoms and a different risk of metastasis. Lymph node metastases occur when laryngeal cancer is located in the upper larynx. The risk of lymph node metastasis is reduced if laryngeal cancer develops near the glottis.

It is worth knowing that laryngeal cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the head and neck. This malignant tumor accounts for approximately 2%. all malignant tumors and is usually diagnosed in people over 40 years of age.

Causes of laryngeal cancer

Laryngeal cancer is a cancer associated with the adverse effects of irritating factors on the larynx. As already mentioned, the main causes of laryngeal cancer are cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse. Other factors that increase the risk of developing laryngeal cancer include heavy metals and gastroesophageal reflux, which causes chronic irritation of the respiratory tract.

Laryngeal cancer – symptoms

Initially, laryngeal cancer develops asymptomatically. As the disease progresses, symptoms begin to appear that require medical consultation. Characteristic symptoms of laryngeal cancer include:

  • chronic hoarseness – the most characteristic symptom of laryngeal cancer,

  • chronic sore throat

  • ear ache,

  • feeling of a foreign body in the larynx area,

  • pressure in the front of the neck,

  • swallowing disorders,

  • occurrence of laryngeal wheezing,

  • unpleasant breath odor

The development of the disease is associated with the occurrence of additional symptoms, which include:

  • pain when swallowing food,

  • expectoration of purulent or bloody secretions,

  • visible lump on the neck,

  • increasing breathing problems,

  • enlarged lymph nodes.

The above symptoms of laryngeal cancer may be accompanied by weakness, chronic or recurrent low-grade fever or fever, and weight loss. A tumor growing in the larynx makes it difficult to eat and drink fluids. It can also cause changes in voice tone and loss of voice.

The initial symptoms of laryngeal cancer are often mistaken for symptoms of a laryngeal infection, e.g. acute or chronic laryngitis.. Any person who smokes cigarettes or abuses alcohol and has long-lasting symptoms typical of laryngitis should consult a doctor as soon as possible! An indication for a visit to a doctor is the persistence of, among others: hoarseness for 14 days and no effects of symptomatic treatment.

It is worth knowing that not only malignant tumors, but also benign tumors can develop in the larynx. In people at risk of developing laryngeal cancer, pre-cancerous conditions often appear before malignancy develops.

Types of laryngeal cancer

As already mentioned, the most frequently diagnosed laryngeal cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which can develop in various parts of the larynx. The development of laryngeal cancer in a specific location affects the course of the disease and the risk of lymph node metastases.

The slow development of laryngeal cancer is typical of glottal cancer, which causes quite characteristic speech disorders, e.g. hoarseness and shortness of breath.

Epiglottis cancer develops much faster. In this case, metastases to the lymph nodes appear quickly. Epiglottis cancer initially manifests itself, among others, irritates the throat and causes discomfort when swallowing.

Subglottic cancer develops asymptomatically and is also characterized by slow growth.

Diagnosis of laryngeal cancer

Correctly selected diagnostic tests allow you to detect laryngeal cancer at an early stage of its development. Basic tests performed on people suspected of laryngeal diseases include:

  • otolaryngological examination,

  • examination of cervical lymph nodes,

  • neck ultrasound examination,

  • direct laryngoscopy,

  • computed tomography,

  • magnetic resonance imaging.

If the above tests reveal disturbing changes in the larynx, a sample is taken for histopathological examination.

Treatment of larynx cancer

Treatment of laryngeal cancer includes surgery and radiotherapy. The choice of treatment method and prognosis depend on the stage of the disease and the patient’s general condition. The choice of cancer treatment method is also influenced by the presence of metastases. In the case of early laryngeal cancer, the prognosis is very good – 85-90 percent recover. patients. In this case, surgery or radiotherapy is used.

In the case of laryngeal cancer at a significant stage, combined treatment is usually used, which includes surgery and radiotherapy. In patients who cannot undergo surgery, it is necessary to start chemotherapy.

Depending on the location of the tumor, the stage of the cancer and other factors, a complete larynx removal or partial larynx removal may be performed. Because the larynx is essential to the breathing process, if the larynx is completely removed, patients breathe through a tracheostomy tube. Depending on the treatment used, voice rehabilitation is used.

Prevention of laryngeal cancer

The development of laryngeal cancer can be avoided! Malignant laryngeal cancer develops primarily as a result of the mutagenic impact of cigarette smoke and toxic substances from alcohol on epithelial cells.

Prevention of laryngeal cancer includes giving up smoking and drinking alcohol – any time is a good time to quit the addiction! Importantly, giving up smoking and alcohol abuse also reduces the risk of diseases such as: for throat cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and pancreatic cancer.

People suffering from gastroesophageal reflux are also at risk of developing laryngeal cancer. In this case, prevention includes treatment of reflux and the use of a diet that prevents the acidic contents of the stomach from flowing back into the esophagus and its regurgitation into the respiratory tract.

Important! All acute and chronic symptoms that may indicate laryngeal diseases should be consulted with a doctor!


  • Maria Zalesska-Kręcicka, Outline of otolaryngology: a textbook for students and doctors, Medical University of Warsaw. Piastów Śląskich, Wrocław, 2008

  • Szczeklik A., Internal diseases, Volume I, Medycyna Practical Publishing House, Kraków, 2005

  • Maciej Godycki-Ćwirko, Katarzyna Kosiek, J. Bożedar Latkowski, Diseases of the ears, nose, oropharynx and larynx, Wydawnictwo Lekarskie PZWL, Warsaw, 2008

  • Arkadiusz Jeziorski, Małgorzata Wierzbicka, Head and neck cancers Library of the Oncologist Surgeon, volume XI, Via Medica Publishing House, Gdańsk, 2018

Similar Posts