What Is It?
Laryngeal cancer is cancer that occurs in the voice box, also known as the larynx, which is located in the throat. The larynx is home to the vocal cords which help us speak. Most laryngeal cancers form from thin, squamous cancer cells or the flat cells that line the inside of the voice box. There are three different parts of the larynx where cancer can form including the upper, middle and lower part or the supraglottis, glottis and sublottis respectively.
The most common risk factors for laryngeal cancer include smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
The primary signs and symptoms of laryngeal cancer may include ear pain, a lump or feeling an obstruction in the throat, hoarseness or a change in the voice, feeling pain or difficulty swallowing and a cough that persists in absence of a cold.
There are many different types of surgery that may be used to treat laryngeal cancer depending on the stage of surgery the patient is in. Here is a review of the most common procedures used to treat laryngeal cancer.
- A coredetomcy, which involves surgery to remove the vocal cords only if the cancer is isolated to this area.
- A supraglottic laryngetcomy, where the supraglottis is removed only, if the cancer is local.
- A hemilaryngectomy if surgery to remove half of the voice box or larynx will help preserve life, as this allows the patient to retain their voice.
- A partial laryngectomy, where part of the voice box is removed so the patient can still talk.
- A total laryngectomy, where the whole larynx must be removed. In this instance a tracheostomy is also performed, because the surgeon must create a hole in the front of the neck so the patient can continue breathing.
- A thyroidectomy, which involves removal of the thyroid gland.
Alternatives to Surgery
Some patients may use radiation therapy which involves the use of x-rays and other forms of radiation to zap cancer cells. External radiation can send radiation to cancer cells and internal radiation may involve using needles and wires or other instruments to place radiation near the cancer cells. Radiation therapy may be offered depending on the stage of cancer.
Patients should generally stop smoking and drinking before initiating any type of radiation therapy. External radiation is often helpful for patients that have thyroid or pituitary involvement.
Chemotherapy is also available for patients that want to use medications to stop cancer cells from growing and dividing too quickly. Chemotherapy can be taken orally or injected. It can be taken to kill off cancer regionally or throughout the body. Some patients will have surgery and then elect to take chemotherapy too so that they are certain the cancer is gone from the body.
Before The Operation
Before the procedure your doctor will want to rule out other causes for your symptoms. He or she will perform a complete medical exam and will look for swollen lymph nodes in the neck and the throat. Some of the exam will include imaging studies that can help the doctor take detailed studies of the voice box and other areas in the body to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
A biopsy may be performed to assess whether cancer cells exist in various parts of the body. This involves removing small bits of tissue from various regions in the body and examining them under the microscope. The doctor may also request an endoscopy to take tissue samples from the throat or lymph nodes and a laryngoscopy where the doctor can look directly at the voice box.
After The Operation
Patients will spend some time in the hospital recovering. The patient may then have a follow up with their doctor and rehabilitation especially if the patient has loss use of their voice. Patients may also undergo radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Complications from surgery may include recurrence of cancer or incomplete removal of the cancer. Some patients may die as a result of surgery or suffer from post-surgical infection which can further weaken the immune system. A biopsy conducted following surgery may show that additional surgeries must be undertaken to remove more malignant tissues.
Treatment for recurring laryngeal cancer may include surgery and follow up care as well as clinical trials for chemotherapy and palliative or pain relieving care to improve the patients overall health and wellness as well as their quality of life.
There are many support groups online and offline for patients with cancer and laryngeal cancer. If you suspect you have cancer of the larynx be sure to consult with a qualified medical professional at your earliest convenience. Laryngeal cancer surgery may involve partial removal of the voice box or complete and total removal of the larynx. Fortunately this may resolve or even cure cancer for many patients. Rehabilitation may be necessary to improve the patient’s quality of life post op, but many patients are joyful to regain their lives following a diagnosis with laryngeal cancer.
Estimated Costs for laryngeal cancer Surgery
The costs for laryngeal cancer will vary from patient to patient depending on how extensive their cancer is when diagnosed. The costs estimated below cannot possibly accurately predict the total costs associated with treating laryngeal cancer as these will fluctuate dramatically over the course of one’s life. These costs reflect primarily the cost of an initial larynx surgery.